Letter writer: What can white people do to support people of color?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I’d like to share some ideas about what we as white Americans can do right now to support people of color, who are disproportionately affected by police brutality and discrimination. Statistics show that American police kill far more frequently than police in other developed countries. One shocking statistic is that American police killed more people this March than U.K. police did in the entire 20th century (source: thinkprogress.com). Video footage is increasingly demonstrating that racially motivated police brutality and killings are proliferating across the country and are not merely local phenomena. We cannot remain apathetic and inactive.

It’s human nature to feel that events that come to national media attention are distant from us. But let’s not forget that a black man was killed by police here in Asheville on July 2 under questionable circumstances, and an investigation is underway. Without drawing hasty conclusions about that event, we ought to realize that the types of killings that make national news headlines are not isolated events, but happen across the nation with disturbing frequency. If we’re complacent, we increase the possibility of people of color being discriminated against and targeted by police in our own community.

Those opposed to changing the status quo in relation to law enforcement practices often argue that most police officers are good people and that they wouldn’t unjustly kill anyone — black, white or brown. But that’s beside the point. The point is that the events that have recently come to light are a symptom of a pervasive illness, and we can’t predict where or when we’ll see yet more evidence of it.

A militaristic and racist culture plagues American law enforcement nationwide, and we need systematic change and new paradigms of law enforcement training and practice. This is not the same as saying that individual police officers in general are racists; what I mean is that law enforcement institutions demonstrate a trend toward racial prejudice and violence, highlighted by events like the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Beyond taking to social media, we ought to write our local law enforcement departments to inquire about what programs they have in place, or are planning, to train their officers in nonlethal intervention and anti-discrimination practices. We should also write our city, county and state political leaders to ask what they’re doing to help develop, encourage and strengthen such programs. Let them know that we want not only to feel safe ourselves, but we want people of color in our community to feel protected rather than threatened by police.

We should also write our local media outlets and ask them to investigate the policies and training of our local law enforcement agencies. We can also support this cause by helping to organize and by attending public demonstrations alongside our neighbors of color.

We need a nationwide shift in the way law enforcement agencies operate and the way they train and outfit their officers. We can’t wait for federal legislation to dictate this from above. If we demand change at a local level, we can change the ethos of law enforcement agencies across the country.

— Luke Hankins


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23 thoughts on “Letter writer: What can white people do to support people of color?

  1. boatrocker

    -Film every interaction between cops and “The Enemy”, aka non cops and post it ASAP to secure online sources before being assaulted/arrested for exercising our 1st Amendment rights.
    -Insist cops follow the same Constitution that us non cops or “The Enemy” follow.
    -Insist cops don’t need Armored Personnel Carriers and fully automatic weapons so they can afford to buy body cams for every cop.
    -Insist that all cops have their body cams activated and in working condition every minute they are on the clock.
    -Insist cops be routinely (randomly) drug tested for drugs icluding steroids, HGH and other ‘instant meathead psycho’ drugs.
    -Insist cops undergo routine psych evals to determine if they are fit for duty.
    -Insist that cops ‘stop killing us’, as in unarmed traffic stop fatalities.
    -Insist that the insisting of the one above apply to people of color too.
    -Insist that every American cop knows who their bosses are (us, their paymasters) and act accordingly.
    -Insist that any cop accused of any infractions above be convicted to the fullest extent of the law and put them in the general population in prison.
    -Insist that Gov McCrory’s recent bill be overturned such that us (non cops aka “The Enemy”) have full legal access to cop body cam footage for purposes of trying them in court.
    -Insist that cops do not tell us to have a nice day unless they really mean it.

    • Rosa Hilbert

      Strongly encourage all community organizations to become pro-active in initiating open forums for all people to have discussions about race issues in Asheville and surrounding areas.

  2. The Real World

    Time to turn off the propaganda box in your living room and start doing more research to make sure you are working with FACTS.
    You are making a very big mistake if you buy entirely into the versions of events that the mainstream media presents. Dig deeper for truth.

    • bsummers

      I believe FOX news is pretty factual. Fair and Balanced™ & all, right? Breitbart.com is never anything but fact. Or Stormfront.com. They got all the correct facts you’ll ever need right there.

      • Fin

        Or cnn or msnbc, or the revolution…. I know that’s a hard to to swallow but if your going to troll at least be impartial.

    • boatrocker

      Yea, when I watch a video of an unarmed black guy being gunned down, Bernie and Hillary obviously have doctored said video to reflect the cops being the bad guy.

      “White Man’s Burden”, from about 1996 I think was not a good movie by any means. For gosh sakes, it starred John Travolta.
      It did however present a Bizzaro America where whitey was pulled over for driving while white, prisons were mainly full of whitey, and black people said backhanded little bitchy comments about whitey that were basically below the radar socially acceptable racist comments. Biased crime statistics were oft quoted to make whitey look bad and…well, you get the idea.

      A white author in 1960 literally dyed his skin black in order to travel around America (not just the South mind you) in order to research for a book about race relations in America. Somehow I don’t see any posters of ‘blacks bring trouble on themselves’ ready, willing and able to do this.

      I do enjoy calls from other posters to dig deeper for the truth. Truth being from (thanks Obi Wan) “a certain point of view”.
      Those that have access to these truths probably went to special schools where there was a different Dewey Decimal System and later, Internet as the truth has to be hidden from whiny progressives who only want a handout/free Obamaphone.
      Rolling of the eyes happens here.

  3. MMH

    minorities commit the huge majority of crimes daily in america with black on black crime leading the way. black lives simply don’t matter to other blacks. read the new book ‘The War on Cops’ by Heather McDonald NOW if you are being misled.

      • boatrocker

        Simple- he was breathing while black. How dare he!

        Did you notice when Kinsey asked the cop why he shot him
        the cop’s answer was “I don’t know”.
        We, US citizen paymasters of police do know yet do not act upon such grievous violations of human rights.

        Sleep well, ‘Murica, your true colors (or intolerance of) are being broadcast to the rest of the world and beyond.
        P.S. -radio waves for AM hate radio and FOX news for television waves as we speak are being broadcast into deep space.

      • Phil Williams

        That was wrong no matter how you slice it, but the media’s handling and reporting does not seem to help matters – it appears to increase the antagonism between the police and communities/individuals, and stretches already frayed nerves mighty thin…there is a lot of stress and mistrust already, and the runaway bias in reporting makes things worse.

        • hauntedheadnc

          So tell me… How would you have handled the reporting of a man lying on his back on the ground with his hands in the air, who still got shot by police?

        • boatrocker

          Nerves be damned, ye delicate little flowers.
          If you’re a cop and do right, good for you. It’s what you’re paid to do- don’t expect a parade in your honor.
          If you’re a cop and routinely disregard the oath you took as well as the Constitution,
          get out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, lil’ man.

          There’s always organized crime if you like committing acts of violence for pay.
          Just ask Bobby Medford.

          • C

            I personally wouldn’t mind some kind of way of honoring them. What’s wrong with honoring people doing a service to their community? They do have to put up with all of you, after all.

  4. Phil Williams

    Haunted Head, I honestly don’t know how I would have reported it, not being a newsman, but it just seems like several news agencies are acting triumphant on having caught this incident – which appears to have been a serious error, but not a malicious act – although I did hear from one source that they were actually trying to hit the disabled man, who obviously did not have a firearm. The shooting was wrong, whether due to incompetence or malice, but some reporting just seems err on the side of getting carried away with it and reporting only one side of the story. In any case, I hope the unfortunate gentleman who was shot receives a good settlement. Boatrocker, I admit that it is easy enough for me to criticize the press, but it seems that the same notion would apply to criticism of the police by those who do not serve in law enforcement. They are human like anyone else, and make mistakes. For every situation like this, there are thousands of other instances of courage, selfless service and sacrifice that never seem to make the mainstream news.

  5. Phil Williams

    I reckon I go out of my way to see the Law Enforcement side of most issues, having enjoyed many lifelong friendships and cordial relations with peace officers from the local to the federal level. Most city and county cops are at the lower pay range among credentialed/sworn/bonded civil servants, yet they bear some of the most terrible responsibilities. They are expected to protect our lives and property – and to make decisions involving life and death during a split second. That is why I tend to raise an eyebrow when folks throw out blanket criticisms and pass immediate judgments based on one side of the story.

    We still have a long way to go with race relations, but we have come a long way, too. I listened to an interesting interview awhile back with the honorable James Young, Mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Mr. Young is a native of Neshoba County (where 3 Civil Rights workers were murdered in 1964. He is in his second, very successful, term as Mayor. He is popular and widely respected. He is also black.

    He said something that will stick with me for a long time about all of the young folks – black and white – who are raising hell in the US about race problems right now. I don’t recall his exact words, but the gist was that he and his generation lived thru segregation and wide-out-in-the-open KKK terror, which was not only condoned, but supported and participated in by several government officials. He said that young black folks and white folks of any age have not had to go thru that, so perhaps they don’t recognize and appreciate how much better things are than they were 40 or 50 years ago.

    Of course, Mr. Young did not say that this was a reason to rest on any laurels and stop evolving and progressing, but he made a definite point that perhaps you had to live thru how bad it once was to see how much progress has actually been made.

  6. boatrocker

    One can denounce the crappy treatment of people of color in this country and not be cop haters, freedom haters, etc.
    It is not an either/or equation.

    A common misconception (post 9 11) is that dissent is treason.
    Not true. This country I seem to remember was founded on dissent.
    At least that’s what was painted on the side of the barn before someone painted ‘some animals are more equal than others’ over it.

    False populism- wrap thyself in the flag, the Bible and fall down at one’s knees to worship law enforcement-
    (Honest) cops are doing their job, yes. Do crooked cops need to be weeded out? Yes.
    Why is that such a bitter pill to swallow? If you can’t be an honest cop, get out of the business.

    Those who say, ‘if you’ve never served in law enforcement, you just don’t get it’, are the same ones who offer opinions on every other part of society they have no experience with, ie education, running for office, being poor and of colored skin, etc. Nice double standard.

    Funny, for the far right wingnuts constantly telling us how bad unions are when they represent auto workers or teachers, don’t they just looooooove their police unions? They never tell a fib in order to protect their own.

    Platitudes and backpedalling about how much cops and the court system are only trying to do their job do not help the cause of
    that thing called equality.

    Yes, progress has been made in terms of civil rights and race relations. Let’s also remember folks like George Wallace, the GOP’s Southern Strategy and that some folks had to be dragged kicking and screaming into post JIm Crow America, and that they have yet to forgive those ‘outside agitators from Washington’ for it.

    David Duke is running for office again, by the way if that helps to illuminate matters.
    Yes, Virginia, there is a problem with racism in America, and one can only turn a blind eye to it for so long before it bites us on the arse.

    • Phil Williams

      Jeez, mister – I am not sure what I said to provoke that epistle – I didn’t trash your opinion, say you or your viewpoint was stupid or invalid, call you a traitor or a pinko or a cop-hater – hell, I didn’t even completely disagree with you – just stated a viewpoint from my foxhole. Actually I am even a registered democrat – and I don’t think I said a thing suggesting that there isn’t a problem or that I worship the police – I assume that you were directing the pointed remarks at me because my posts were the last couple on this thread That is one of the problems with making progress in this country – when both sides of the aisle set in to shouting and name-calling, then civil discourse is done. I am fairly sure that you will now respond with some cute crack about me being “butt-hurt” or that I need to get out of the kitchen if I can’t stand the heat. Generally, when I can’t hold a civil conversation with someone, I withdraw from the field.

      • boatrocker

        I wasn’t going to say anything about being butt hurt, but if that’s what you’d like?…

        All my comments about this issue are pro-active deterrents to the ‘turn a blind eye to a serious problem in America’ as in when you post about it and then 4 posters quote a FOX news type source about how blacks bring on their own misery.
        That elephant in the room is only getting bigger.

        I’ll assert my thoughts, and then point out certain potential over-used counter arguments are weak at best.

        I still stand by my very first post on this thread, which apparently scares some people as police and other government institutions would actually have to demonstrate true accountability in terms of treating every citizen in a humane and equitable fashion.

  7. Phil Williams

    Again, Mate – I did not attack or try to invalidate anything you said…I simply tried to converse. If your lengthy and passionate response was directed more at other comments, then please pardon my earlier observation.

    I don’t think the elephant in the room has been getting any bigger, though. I think it has always been there and was at one time much bigger (lynchings, full-scale race riots with hangings to follow, officially sanctioned segregation of schools, public transport, water fountains & bathrooms, etc.), but now, due to advances in technology and communication, it is more visible than it ever was before.

    Yes, there have been some questionable and plainly bad incidents – and the one under discussion was just wrong – no way around it and no reasonable defense for the officer I can think of – and I agreed with you on this. I don’t think it was done maliciously, but if an officer is that incompetent or that frightened, then to paraphrase the Duke, he needs to “find another line of work – that one sure don’t fit his pistol.”

    When did any of my comments above suggest that we “turn a blind eye”, or that I supported any of the other opinions on “how blacks bring on their own misery”….And I don’t think that trying to consider both sides of any controversial issue necessarily constitutes a platitude, backpedaling or whining.

    I didn’t criticize the Press except to say that some of their reporting seemed one-sided and, in some cases, created more division and tension than there was before. I also admitted that it was easy for me to be critical without being there on the ground.

    Sure there are bad cops and they need to be held accountable for their actions – and the departments and municipalities, counties, States, etc. that condoned and even covered up wrongdoing should also be dealt with. However, it seems like only the bad ones ever make the news. The good ones don’t want a parade in their honor – most of them are indeed trying to do their jobs and make it home at the end of the shift – that is not a platitude – it is just a fact of life in certain jobs. .

    I have not, in any of my previous comments, offered a single opinion “on every other part of society [I] have no experience with, ie education, running for office, being poor and of colored skin, etc.” Most jobs in education, public office (unless law enforcement), etc. usually don’t involve being sworn as a peace officer and having to carry a gun and having to decide when to use it – and most folks have a pretty good chance of making it home each day alive and whole.

    My uncle, the late George Rogers, was the first and far as I know, the only, Canton Police officer slain in the line of duty – he was an easygoing World War Two veteran, husband and father – knew everyone in Canton. Back in May of 1974 he was making a domestic disturbance call on one of his “regular customers” who was drunk and fussing with his wife – the guy fired a hunting rifle – supposedly at his wife, who had run outside to meet the officers – but it struck Uncle George thru the bill of his service cap – he died at the scene.

    So, for a number of reasons, I reckon I am generally in sympathy with the Police but not to the point of ignoring their faults and problems. However, I try not to pass judgment and do sincerely want to hear both sides when something awful happens either to lawmen or to those who have been harmed by lawmen.

    Would just appreciate it if you recognize an attempt at discussion as just that , not as a “counter argument”. I don’t have thin skin or virgin ears – almost 30 years in the Service has seen to that – but neither will I engage in a shouting match with anyone.

      • Phil Williams

        I wondered what it must be. I will continue to read out of curiosity, and will “speak when spoken to” but I am no longer actively engaging with certain folks – discussion with them is pretty much impossible.

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