Reprinted: Asbury Park Press
The upcoming national election for president will be critical. Do we continue down the collision course of national division, hatred, and violence? Or will we move toward equal justice, greater unity, and peace?
Under President Trump, violence, confrontations, and crime in the streets of our cities has increased. At the first debate, he refused to denounce white nationalist groups who are at the top of the FBI list of “most dangerous domestic terrorist groups.” He even went so far as to say that they, including the notorious Proud Boys, should “stand by” on election day. For what, one might ask? Immediately afterward the Proud Boys praised the President and used his statements as a recruiting tool. They went on to say, “We’re ready!!” and “Trump basically said to go f— them up! this makes me so happy,”
Three years ago, young white neo-Nazis and KKK members marched in Charlottesville against townspeople wanting to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee. They chanted, “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” A young white woman was killed, and a Black man beaten. Trump’s response? There are “some good people on both sides.” For this, he was praised by the racist David Duke as “Our President.”
Trump wants racial division and violence to increase. He wants to scare white people into voting for him and further divide the country. But he has instigated much of the violence.
He has called out armed white militias and used federal government agents to confront peaceful protesters. This has only increased violence. Now we learn that ICE agents are being sent to what Trump calls “sanctuary cities” to confront immigrants, many of whom are COVID first responders and essential workers.
His surrogates William Barr and Rudy Giuliani have unfairly mischaracterized and slandered Black Lives Matters (BLM). Giuliani has gone so far to slander BLM as “cop killers.”
Trump blames the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement for racism and violence. But BLM has not condoned looting and violence. They and the local police have cooperated to stage peaceful rallies. The overwhelming majority of BLM rallies have been peaceful.
A non-profit monitor solicited by the U.S. State Department who studied the issue said that 93% of the protests over the summer were peaceful, and that “the marches turn violent often when police intervene” or when KKK-types use “car-ramming attacks” against demonstrators.
The BLM, founded by three Black women after the killing of Trayvon Martin, condemns all forms of racism in society such as in healthcare, housing, jobs, promotions, decent pay, and education. The speakers at the rallies are largely younger people who say they are tired of being targeted by police nearly every day and violated by “stop and frisk” while breaking no laws. They wonder if and when they will become the next George Floyd.
As a white person, I can say that I never knew that kind of everyday experience while growing up in a public housing project. It is not a “privilege” that I have. It is a right that we all should have.
I have not heard one person say an anti-white statement, chant or advocate violence against police at BLM led rallies. Police officers have more to fear from COVID, the biggest killer of police this year. No one from the BLM has killed police.
I am encouraged by the BLM marchers from all races and nationalities, especially younger people. I am happy for the athletes and labor movements of support for the BLM movement and its aims. I am encouraged by so many in law enforcement who have knelt in support of the movement and in honor of George Floyd. The decent police officers are taking a public stand against racism. I am also encouraged by the large number of local law reforms protecting everyone’s rights that have been won by this movement. The movement’s continued success will lead to a better understanding between police and community and greater safety for both.
Next month, the main goal for unity and peace is to get Donald Trump out of the White House and Mitch McConnell out as Senate majority leader. Then to push for the national reforms in all areas of life that are needed to really make our country great!
Ralph Palladino is a vice president of a large public employee union in New York City.