It would be easy to blame the rioting in American cities on the rioters. It would be easy to match rioting with unbeatable force. It would be easy to ignore the issues that are dividing us in this country. It would be easy to ignore the social issues that bring pain to our brothers and sisters.
I have heard folks say the rioters “just want to steal things.” And while there may be a few folks like that, the overall majority of the protestors are non-violent and simply want the message to be heard. I watched the coverage and saw a mix of all races, all genders, and all ethnic backgrounds. I saw mostly young folks, but some were older. I saw anger and I saw frustration. I saw deep pain and fear. I saw our children asking us to change for the better.
The death last week of a young black man at the hands of police was murder. Anyone who thinks otherwise should reexamine their own soul. Consider if that young black man had been a young Jewish student. Would you still believe this wasn’t murder? Just a few weeks ago, another young black man was murdered while jogging. We have been lynching young black men for 200 years.
I heard an interesting comment on the news coverage. I do not recall the source. “Being a black man in the United States is a crime.” Young black men are always assumed to be up to something criminal and violent. White folks are assumed to be justified in using excessive force because these young black men are assumed to be a threat. I’ve even heard members of our community say, “If they would just behave better, the cops wouldn’t have to act that way.”
It is time for our community to reach out to our brothers in the black community. It’s time for all of us to insist that the police do their job in a careful and race-blind manner. It’s time to tell young black men that we understand their pain and frustration. It’s time to tell the mother of those dead children that change needs to occur now.
For 50 years, we have congratulated ourselves for being supporters of civil rights. We have claimed to have no responsibilities for the horrible things that occur because we supported racial equality. It’s not enough. We sit in our safe suburbs and we feel we are on the moral high ground. It’s time to come off the mountain and speak up. It’s time to insist that policing change. It’s time to insist that young black men deserve the same protections as young Jewish men. It’s time to insist on a society that values the lives of everyone.
Pick up your phone. Pick up a pen. Pick up your feet. Call the politicians. Write to the editor. March with the young folks. It’s time. It’s not easy but progress is never easy. It’s time to make our society better.
Scott Rifkin, MD, is the publisher of Jmore.