Black Lives Matter protests have sprung up in dozens of countries. Leaders of the movement speak out about the changes that need to happen now
The above heading, from a current article in Newsweak, promises more than it delivers. Most of the article is a large catalog of people who have suffered at the hands of police. Because minorities have on average suffered more than whites, it is assumed that the police are wrong in some way -- more racist, in particular. That minorities might be more prone to criminal behaviour is not considered or that minorities might be more aggressive, unco-operative and hostile to the police is not considered or even mentioned
Such a one-eyed article is unlikely to offer any real information but there are a couple of paragraphs in the article that do set out what changes black leaders want. I have reproduced them below.
The first quest is almost amusing. The author wants research directed to understanding why racism persists in Britain and how it needs to be addressed. I can assure him that there has been a great deal of academic research on that question already. I have quite a few articles in the journals on that topic myself.
And the major finding of that reseach is that racial discrimination emerges very early in life -- even in babies. So whether you think intolerance of difference is inborn or not the challenges it poses are much the same. It runs deep in the human psyche and is very widespread even in educated adults. Most adults in current society learn not to express their adverse judgments openly but actions such as "white flight" reveal that their deep-down attitudes and judgments are little different from what we have seen in most of human history -- which is open derogatory judgements of minorities.
However you look at it, the possibility that more research will reveal anything liklely to bring about change is vanishingly small. What existing research tells us is that "racism" will always be with us.
The second proposal for change below is more reasonable: a reallocation of police tasks. Libertarians have long argued that too much of human behaviour has been criminalized. They would like to see all drug use made legal everywhere for instance. A huge amount of police work is devoted to drug crime and often leads to severe abuses. "No knock raids", for instance are almost entirely devoted to seizing evidence of drug use before that evidence can be destroyed in some way -- by flushing drugs down the toilet, for instance.
Taking drugs out of the purview of the police would free up lots of police time that could be devoted to a more patient approach to challenges. Many police-involved deaths are of mentally ill people and a more patient approch to them would often remove the need for a bullet.
What Oke would like Britain to do is use this moment to tackle the issues laid bare by George Floyd’s death and dedicate substantial resources and funding to understanding why racism persists in Britain and how it needs to be addressed. She seems to be, at once, both optimistic and skeptical about the likelihood of success. “We hope this is a movement of genuine social change across our nation,” Oke said. But, “we feel almost nervous to believe in what the longevity could be of the change.”
Black Lives Matter co-founder Cullors is an advocate of defunding, which redirects money typically budgeted for law enforcement to other community-serving initiatives, including education, healthcare, mental health services and social services programs. “This is a watershed moment,” Cullors told Newsweek. “And we need bold and courageous approaches.”
Already, in the U.S. and in Canada, the idea is taking root, with city council members in Minneapolis voting to dismantle the police department implicated in Floyd’s death and replace it with a new community-based public safety system. Meanwhile, officials in Toronto are discussing a motion seeking to slash that city’s police department budget by 10 percent.
“A significant re-allocation of resources away from ineffective or harmful police approaches and toward programs that demonstrably reduce crime could actually improve public safety,” said Paul Hirschfield, an associate sociology and criminal justice professor at Rutgers University. “Much of what the police do—random patrols, patrolling schools, traffic enforcement, and drug enforcement—do far too little for public safety to justify the enormous expense.”