I took the decision to stay out of the “Black Lives Matter” debate because I wanted to avoid fuelling an already combustible situation. But my own encounter with the Police yesterday changed my mind.
On my way home yesterday, I was stopped by the Police.
I noticed they were following me for almost twenty minutes before deciding to stop me.
A female Police officer came to my car and asked if she could see my license. I asked why I was stopped. Taken aback by the question, she thought quickly and lied to me, claiming I was driving erratically.
I told her she was lying. She knew it and I knew it, but it was the only excuse she could think of. I proceeded to tell her that, that type of behaviour was uncalled for. One minute they are applauding us for saving their lives, the next minute they are stopping us for driving black.
My only offence was being a Black man driving in an isolated English village. I have always told myself if the Police stopped me, I will smile at them and be as polite as humanly possible. But when I was stopped, I did not exhibit the calm composure I promised myself I was going to exhibit.
I was frustrated.
Remember when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up President Trump’s ‘State of the Union’ address on stage? I am sure she will admit that was not the proudest moment of her career.
In fact, it might have been the lowest moment of her career. But she was frustrated, so out of frustration she reacted in an inelegant manner.
So, like Mrs. Pelosi, when I was stopped by the Police for driving black, I was frustrated. In my frustration I allowed myself to go lower, instead of taking Michelle Obama’s advice and go higher.
I felt something was fundamentally flawed with the picture. I have done absolutely nothing wrong. Police don’t go around IDing every white person they see driving.
Why do they keep doing this to us?
I Feel Your Pain But… Two wrongs cannot make one right
I told my own story to say to my black brothers and sisters, I share your frustration. I feel your pain. No decent person let alone black person would have seen the video of the murder of George Floyd and not be touched by it.
That was murder in cold blood in broad daylight.
While I share the frustration, I am convinced burning down buildings and looting will not do us any favours. Two wrongs cannot make one right. I am not one of those people lecturing you on the right or wrong way to protest.
I get it.
It’s difficult for any decent person to control their anger and outrage at the level of barbarity showed by that officer.
But I still think we can express our outrage without resorting to violence. Because all it will do is provide them excuse to further brutalise us.
So, What Would I Suggest?
I have had lengthy discussions with my friends since the killing of George Floyd. My friends keep saying this time things are going to shift because of the amount of outrage being expressed. I keep reminding them the same amount of outrage was expressed when Michael Brown and Eric Gardner were killed and nothing changed.
They keep insisting it is different time.
I don’t buy that.
In a few weeks time, all of the anger will blow over. People will go back to their lives before George Floyd. When another black person is bludgeon to death by another white Police officer, the circle will start again.
It is not going to change this time and it will never change until we address the core issues underlying institutional racism and Police brutality.
So, what are those core issues?
I am glad you asked.
Let me tell you a story to make my point.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte got a call his mother was dying during the coronavirus lockdown in Holland. It was his last opportunity to see his mother alive and say farewell to her.
He is the PM is the country, he is powerful. He could have ignored the regulations and gone to see his mother one last time.
It was a very personal human moment for him. He decided to do what was good for his country and obey the lockdown.
I am certain the majority of Dutch people would have forgiven him for going to say his final farewell to his mother.
He decided he is not above the law. He did what was right for his nation as a whole, because all of Holland was fighting the virus as a team.
Contrast that to the behaviour of the British PM adviser. When faced with a decision of doing what was good for the country and what was good for him, he chose himself above the interest of the nation.
And his boss the PM decided the interest of his friend is above the interest of the nation he is supposed to be leading.
The Dutch PM behaviour is also in sharp contrast to that of US President Trump who refused to wear mask because it would make him look uncool. More than a hundred thousand of his fellow countrymen have died of coronavirus. Despite that, he decided looking cool was more important than the lives of his people.
Covid-19 Exposed Bad Leaders
Warren Buffet once said “it’s when the tide is gone that we see those who are swimming naked”.
There can be no truer statement as it relates to the current leadership in many countries. Coronavirus has exposed the inaptitude of many of our leaders. The highest coronavirus death rate has been recorded in countries with either bad leadership or those where the population have little or no trust in their leadership.
US, UK, Italy, France, Belgium and Brazil were countries once held in high esteem. Coronavirus has exposed the massive population trust deficit in their leaders.
Contrast that to Germany, Netherlands, Austria or the Scandinavia, where the population have trust in their leadership, you see a different picture.
Those are countries where leaders understand that their population expect them to act with integrity at all times. And if they were seen to be acting in any shape or form contrary to the value of the population, they will be held accountable for it.
The blatant contempt Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings showed the British people would never have been pulled off in Germany or any Scandinavian country. Both of them would have been gone.
Differences in Police Conduct
When I lived in Germany, the joke in the black community was, if you encountered a German judge at 11 pm, you better run for your life, or it might be game over for you.
However, if as a black man you met that same judge in the court in the morning, you can rest assure he will be judging the merit of the case, not your colour.
The judge doesn’t behave in that manner because he had a personality transplant from the night to the morning. He does that because the German population expects him to act with integrity under the German Crest. If he did not, the population as a whole will hold him accountable.
This is one reason Police in countries like Germany, Holland or Scandinavia issue lots of penalty tickets as opposed to prosecution.
They know when they go to court, the burden of proof is upon them.
They have to prove to the court why the individual deserves to be punished.
You don’t arrest someone in Germany and expect them to prove they should not be arrested, which is the case in countries like the US or UK.
In Germany, the onus is upon the Police to prove that the individual committed an arrestable offence.
This is a very, very important distinction, which is why Police conduct in most European countries is completely different from their counterparts in the US. UK and France.
In almost all European countries, Police are armed. Everyone in law enforcement knows criminal gangs in Europe are far more dangerous than criminal gangs in the US.
Yet European Police don’t go around shooting people. It’s because the burden of proof is upon the Police to justify their reason for pulling the trigger. The burden of proof is not upon the dead person to prove he was not dangerous.
The Police know society expect them to comport themselves in certain ways at all times. Society does not expect any less from them and will not tolerate any behaviour that falls short of the expected standard.
The problem we have in countries like the US, UK or France unlike Germany and Scandinavia, people in authority are not held to a certain standard.
This is a big problem in society.
Until we address that, we cannot address Police brutality, institutional racism or all the other stuff that are leading to the death of so many black people.
And no amount of demonstration is going to change that.
Anyone who thinks demonstration is going to change Police behaviour without changing our collective conscientiousness is smoking crack.
Why do I say that?
On 3 April, BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg wrote an article entitled “Coronavirus: Care workers ‘shocked’ by virus treatment guidance”.
In the article, Laura revealed the fact that care homes have been directed by one of the council’s in England to literally leave care home residence to die of coronavirus.
I remember reading the article and saying to my friends, why is no one outraged by this?
What kind of society is prepared to sacrifice its parents and grandparents for the rest of society to survive.
Not even those who had love ones in care homes raised their voices. Not the clergy, not even the Pope.
There was this deafening silence about the issue.
A few months later, when it became known that the majority of death from coronavirus in a single setting was in care homes, people began pretending to be outrage.
But everyone knew it from the beginning.
They chose to remain silent.
What is the need of shouting after the fact when they could have acted to prevent those deaths?
Many of those people left to die were people who fought for this country.
They were the ones who sacrifice to build Britain from the ashes of the wars. In their own moment of need, we decided to repay them by sacrificing them.
When the PM and his health secretary were asked about it, they looked the nation in the eye and lied to them.
Insisting they did all they could to help care homes, when it is clear they sacrifice the residence because they have no one to advocate on their behalf, not even their own families.
You might be reading this article and thinking what does care home death or the Dutch PM mother’s death have to do with the death of George Floyd or institutional racism?
Those events have everything to do with George Floyd’s death and institutional racism.
What Does Care Home Deaths Have to Do with George Floyd?
President Trump launched his campaign for the US presidency by calling Mexican’s rapists and murderous drug dealers.
Staying true to his words he caged thousands of children and yanked babies from their wailing mothers breast.
The American population including African Americans were silent.
You cannot reform a society that tolerates any form of barbarism.
The reason we are struggling with Police reform is we are not addressing the core problem.
The problem is not the Police.
The problem is the culture of impunity in societies. A society that tolerates impunity at the top cannot expect accountability at the bottom.
Society that tolerates President Trump’s abuse of Mexicans and Latino children cannot demand accountability from Police.
A society that tolerates the behaviour of Dominic Cummings cannot turn around and demand accountability from Police.
This is How Society Ought to Behave
In 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik massacred 77 people in Norway, the Norwegians did not demand the law be changed so that he is hanged.
Norway is a society that respect the sanctity of human life including the life of a mass murderer.
He is serving 25 years in prison, expected to be released one day.
Society has to be just in order for justice to prevail in any society.
Any society that is indifferent to the wailing of a mother whose baby has been grabbed from her breast will not have justice.
When we turn a blind eye to injustice being done to others because they do not look like us, one day those same people will do the same thing to us.
A lot of blacks voted for Brexit without realising it was European laws that provided them air cover.
But they wanted the Polish and Romanians out, so they can get jobs.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of others and expect justice for ourselves.
We Need to Examine Our Collective Conscientiousness
We all saw New York Police officers push a frail 75 year old man who fell and hit his head with blood was oozing from his ears.
And the Police did not even have the decency to stop and help him, they jumped over the dying man and went about their business.
He was a white man.
A few hours after the Police almost killed a frail old man, New York Governor and Mayor praised the Police for doing a fantastic job while denying Police brutality.
If that was not Police brutality, I want to know what they consider Police brutality.
If those in power cannot condemn such behaviour, even when it involves one of their own, what chance does another George Floyd has?
I am not even going to repeat what President Trump himself has said.
Am I saying we should simply give up and allow ourselves to be killed by the Police?
I am not saying that.
What I am saying is, we need to recognise the forces we are up against and develop our strategies accordingly.
You cannot solve a problem if you do not accurately identify the root cause.
There will only be Police reform when we as a society change our collective conscientiousness and act in the interests of each and every one of us.
This first article was meant to point out the root cause of institutional racism and Police brutality in the US and UK.
Subsequent articles will show how to overcome these obstacles and prevent another incident of George Floyd.