What happened to Eric Garner was horrendous and tragic, and some of what has unfolded since has equally so been horrendous and tragic. And what is clear is that if things continue on their current cause then we are only going to see more horror and more tragedy, escalating and deepening. Someone is going to need to choose to change course if this further tragedy is to be avoided.
As emotional as this situation is, it’s severity demands calm and reason. The black community has it in its hands to choose differently, and to transform this situation. It will not be easy, but it is possible.
What is it that you want? You want fair treatment from the police. Of course. But what sentiment runs through their hearts at this time? The police are as human as you or I, and just because they wear a uniform and carry a badge does not mean that they do not feel, nor that they can simply contain their feelings and not allow them to influence their conduct. No-one switches off like that.
If you want a solution – if you want justice and you want fairness then you need to eliminate from the hearts and minds of the police any sense of animosity towards you. Maybe you think that their animosity is unjustified, and that yours is, but what difference does that make? Whether they are right or they are wrong, it is there, and it is shaping their actions towards you, and you are being harmed because of that. It is at that level that you must nurture change.
Anger, hatred, violence, aggression, protest etc. might feel right, it might feel justified, it might even feel good, but it is making your situation worse. So you must ask yourselves, what is it that we want, and how is it that we will get it? If our current protests make what we are protesting against worse then what sense does it make to conduct those protests? Is our desire to see real change, or is part of it to feel justified in expressing certain thoughts and feelings? I think with some honesty it will be clear that it is a mixture of both.
If you want change then you need to change the hearts and minds of the police, and that means treating them well, treating them with kindness, treating them with understanding. You must work to disarm their animosity, their fear, their anger, their pain. First by ending all aggression, and secondly by befriending the police.
That’s right. You must make them your friends. Be good to them. Take gifts to police stations and give gifts to the police you meet. Make donations to police funds. Do whatever you can to make it clear that what you want is good relations with the police, because it is out of those good relations that fairness and justice will be served in future. If these are the things you want then it is clear that you need the police on your side, and so what you need to do is work towards creating good relations. Make the police your friends. Change their minds. Transform their prejudices. Warm their hearts to you with your sincere goodness and kindness. Everyone wins then.
This isn’t an easy path. But it’s clearly the right path. Strong feelings don’t justify anything. Not from either side. Are the police going to transform themselves for you? No. Would an open letter to the police mobilise them to work towards good relations to you? I don’t know, but if they read this then everything applies to them too.
Of course this letter generalises. There are many different actions and attitudes on both sides, but the point remains the same. Work towards friendship. Especially the black community, you have one of humanities great heroes in MLK, and you’ve won with your peace and your goodness before. Right now you are losing, and, in a battle between you and the police, you’ve already lost.
You must make it increasingly difficult for them to attack you – to want to attack you. Why would they want to or, or feel the need to, attack those who are of no threat to them, but also those who are good to them? You must appeal to their human nature. They are no different to you or I. They are fellow human beings who might be acting poorly, but in their minds they are doing what is right – what they feel they need to do. Whether that is right or wrong is irrelevant, what is relevant is what will work, and what will work for everyone is expressing goodness and kindness towards them… to extinguish their fires.
You have millions of people around the world watching what is happening. This is your chance to lead the way – to lead the world, to show us that things can be done differently, that peaceful action is a viable and effective path, that violence is not the solution, but the perpetuation of the problem. You have a chance to inspire us all. There are so many battles facing humanity at the moment… you can show us a new way. You have that power. Mark yourselves in history. Choose peace – creative peace, deliberate kindness, forgiveness, understanding. Truly understand where the police are coming from.
Organise yourselves, develop strategies and tactics, be intelligent – peace and love and kindness does not need to be naive or stupid! Train yourselves, train those around you. Read up on your own history and your own heroes. You have one of the very greatest, and he wasn’t that long ago. Embrace him again, let his example and words guide you. If you want good relations with the police then begin to form them. Don’t wait for them – they will respond in kind when they see your kindness.