Bankole: Don’t exploit George Floyd for partisan gains
The message of the protesters demonstrating against George Floyd’s death is simple: Uphold black humanity regardless of your party.
And since Floyd's death, Democratic leaders in Congress have called for action on legislation to address the systemic issue of racism in the criminal justice system.
But although the boisterous remarks that Democrats are making appear to seek real solution to the crisis of police misconduct, they're truly nothing more than reactionary measures. They demonstrate how out-of-touch some Democrats are with the real issues of racism.
Consider this irony: Baltimore, where Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015, Cleveland, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a white officer in 2014, Detroit, where an audit of the 6th precinct found a racist culture, and Minneapolis, where George Floyd was recently killed — these cities have been at the epicenter of the national outcry against police brutality in the last decade. And they are all run by Democratic mayors.
If Democrats are sincere about ending the culture of police brutality, they can begin by insisting on their fellow liberal mayors in major cities to step up and end the repressive police tactics that lead to the massacre of black people.
In an interview with Belgian newspaper De Standaard this week, I said it would be disingenuous to cast the question of police brutality in America as a strictly partisan issue. Neither party can claim clean hands in the scourge of police violence that has been visited upon black bodies for centuries.
In Detroit alone, some of the past actions of Mayor Mike Duggan, a significant player in state Democratic politics, betray any attempt to place the burden of police brutality at the feet of Republicans alone.
Last year, when Ariel Moore, an African American woman, was pulled over in dangerously cold weather and humiliated by a white Detroit police officer, Gary Steele, who has since been fired, it took Duggan far too long to issue a public apology and condemn the action of the officer. That's just one example of instances involving law enforcement encounters with Detroiters where Duggan has failed to step up.
While people were demanding justice for Moore, Duggan, with the support of his reliable friends in the older civil rights establishment in the city, was preparing to roll out the red carpet for the National NAACP convention coming to town. Such contradiction and conflict undermine the real quest for police accountability.
Traditional civil rights groups that should be forcing change are in bed with the Democratic Party heavyweights, like Duggan, at the expense of their own independence.
Take for an example, an email that Michigan House Democrats in Lansing sent out Tuesday evening appearing to seize on the protest climate.
“As Democrats, social justice is a core value. No one is free unless everyone is free. So, when systemic racism and inequality tears at the soul of our nation and state, we are compelled to act and call on others to do the same,” reads the email, which did not even mention Floyd’s name.
It goes on to praise what it deems to be leading organizations working to advance social and racial justice, including the Michigan State Conference of the NAACP. Then it ends with this plea: “Please consider a gift to the Michigan State Conference today.” When you click on the donate button, it takes you to directly to the website of the Detroit NAACP.
When the Democrats openly do the bidding of the NAACP, an independent organization intended to hold them accountable and make sure they deliver on their promises to blacks, who can blame them for assuming they have the exclusive rights to the black electorate?
The bottom line is that both parties are culpable in the current climate and they need to work to eradicate systemic racism in police departments, and not wait for the next George Floyd situation to do another fundraising campaign.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which broadcasts at 11 a.m. weekdays on 910AM.