September 2016: Which Lives Matter? Continued

September 2016 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

Which Lives Matter? Continued

Monday, September 19, 2016
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

The August discussion of Which Lives Matter? engaged the group so thoroughly that it was agreed to continue the conversation. We addressed issues of racism both subtle and institutional and overt and angry, the rights and responsibilities of law enforcement including minority officers, and personal stories of how close to home this conflict can be. We hope August participants can come again and welcome anyone with an interest in Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and the state of race relations in America and the world. A wide range of opinions were expressed often passionately but with an understanding that civil conversation is needed not divisive posturing. Please join us.

Black Lives Matter says that America can no longer ignore the deaths of young African American men at the hands of police officers. BLM tactics have included encampments at a police precinct and the Governor’s mansion, shutting down public highways and light rail, and demonstrating in the Mall of America. When criticized, they point to years of institutionalized racism and indifference by the “white power structure” to say that only disrupting whites’ comfort brings attention. Is this the new Civil Rights movement? Do commuters stuck in traffic or shoppers being impeded become allies or are lost as potential friends? When police are targeted and killed, can they say that Blue Lives Matter? Or as stated by the sister of a black police officer murdered in Baton Rouge, do all lives matter? Indeed all lives should matter — but if they do, why are blacks now protesting to whites that “black lives matter, too?”

Is “driving while black” a crime? Do dreadlocks invite traffic stops? When does proactive law enforcement become racial profiling? When do urban social service, housing, education, voter registration, and drug and prison policies become institutional racism? If crimes are “black on black”, won’t police arrest minority perpetrators to protect minority victims? When the Fourth Precinct station was occupied, some residents complained of a loss of police protection. Which is the greater danger, failure to aggressively patrol high crime neighborhoods or treating black males as inherently suspicious? Are police taught a “warrior mentality” which highlights potential danger and counsels that failure to fire may be failure to survive?

But isn’t there a real threat to police displayed in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and individual shootings of law officers? If self-protection is challenged, is the logical reaction reluctance to stop crime? Do crimes increase in places like Baltimore when police think CYA not I have the public’s back? Aren’t police officers more and more minorities themselves? Is their involvement in the Freddie Gray and Philando Castile deaths racism? Some law enforcement spokesman have claimed that there is a war on police and point to Black Lives Matter as responsible. When BLM demonstrators have signs such as “Pigs in a Blanket”, must group leaders condemn them? Haven’t they done so already? Which is the true slogan “Protect and Serve” or “Army of Occupation”?

Are Civil Rights and Rule of Law mutually exclusive concepts? Does Law and Order reflect perhaps paranoid fears of the haves while the have nots need it most? Is the Black Lives Matter movement a symptom of systematic failure to address treatment of minorities and the corrosive effects of poverty? What police force do we want and what society do we want? Can there be understanding across racial lines or is there a barrier which can never be surmounted? How can we do better?

What is the modern role of religion, secular philosophies, and political ideology, in judging which lives matter? While Mohammad preached against racism nearly 1,400 years ago, self-proclaimed Christians have licensed prejudice against blacks until modern times. Do different sects of the modern Church fight against, tolerate, or encourage building of racial barriers? Have atheism and humanism grown hand-in-hand with racial tolerance? If many Americans are now “unchurched,” why then are our laws, schools, and housing policies still partitioning blacks into urban ghettos and slums? Do any particular cultural, religious, social, or political creeds deserve the blame for the perception by many blacks that their lives indeed don’t matter to the rest of us?

On Monday, September 19 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will discuss how sometimes competing values can be balanced.

To have a civil conversation rather than an angry argument (may happen anyway) the agreements of acceptance, open-mindedness, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will guide the meeting. All points of view are welcome.