The Docket November 2020 - Page 11


“ I Can ’ t Breathe ” becomes a rallying cry

By TAMARA WILLIAMS , Esq . Office of the Public Defender and NEIL LYONS , Esq . Lurhsen Goldberg , LLC

“ I

Can Garner , Elijah McCain , Javier
’ t Breathe .” Those were the last three words spoken by Eric
Ambler , Manuel Ellis , and George Floyd , just moments before they took their last breath . At the time of their deaths , all five black men were in the custody of law enforcement officers and ended up victims of senseless police brutality . The list of unarmed black men and women killed by law enforcement officers date back to the inception of this country and the critical question is , when will it all end ?
As racial tensions continue to grow , the Council for Diversity and Inclusion of the SCBA responded by hosting town halls to bring awareness to the injustice blacks have been dealing with for far too long . Last month , the Council published Part I ( click here to read part I ) of a two-part series , explaining the purpose and goal of the town halls . Part II answers the questions many have concerning Black Lives Matter , the concept of defunding the police , and white privilege . Tamara J . Williams , Esq ., Public Relations Chair of the Council for Diversity and Inclusion , sat down with SCBA Board Director , Neil Lyons , Esq ., and the two had a candid conversation about race and inequality in America .
LYONS : The Black Lives Matter movement is often labeled as an anti-police , anti-white , hate organization . What is the mission / goal of the Black Lives Matter movement ? When the term Black Lives Matter is used , does that mean other lives don ’ t ?
WILLIAMS : The mission of Black Lives Matter ( BLM ) is to eliminate white supremacy and build power to intervene in violence inflicted in black communities . Since the inception of this county , whites have expressed hatred towards blacks , and looked at blacks as an inferior race simply due to skin color . Blacks were property , blacks were sold , blacks were mistreated , and blacks were not given the basic human rights that white Americans enjoyed .
Tamara Williams , Esq . Office of the Public Defender
Neil Lyons , Esq . Lurhsen Goldberg , LLC
BLM is an organization that tackles these issues head on by marching , protesting , and calling for true change . BLM urges individuals to open their eyes and to take a deeper look at the problem blacks have endured for far too long .
BLM is not a hate organization nor is it a terrorist group . BLM is not anti-police nor anti-white . It is an organization that is antiwhite supremacy , anti-racism , and anti-police brutality . It is a movement where individuals boldly speak out about the mistreatment blacks have endured in America . BLM is focused on bringing awareness and change through peacefully protesting and marching . Contrary to popular belief , more than 93 % of BLM demonstrations have been peaceful . It should also be noted that our local BLM chapter regularly gives back to the community . BLM sponsors back to school drives , “ Know Your Rights ” seminars , food giveaways , economic empowerment workshops , and they provide masks and hand sanitizers to the community in the wake of COVID-19 .
Some people believe the name BLM suggests that white lives do not matter ; those people completely miss the point . n It ’ s evident that the lives of whites matter since whites are not being senselessly gunned down at the hands of law enforcement officers . n It is clear that white lives matter since blacks are serving longer jail and prison sentences for the same crimes committed by their white counterparts . n Black lives have been marginalized for years and white lives have always mattered more in America . n BLM simply means black lives matter also .
LYONS : Many protesters believe that defunding the police is the answer to police brutality and the use of excessive force . What does defunding the police mean ?
WILLIAMS : The term “ defunding the police ,” means taking the funds that police departments receive and reallocate those funds by putting money in places where the community benefits . Instead of spending money to arm officers with military style weapons , building more jails / prisons , and over criminalizing black communities , why not reinvest those funds ? Properly educate and train law enforcement officers on how to deal with people of diverse backgrounds , invest in mental health programs , invest in programs that will rehabilitate inmates once released from custody , and invest in body cameras . Law enforcement officers have an extremely dangerous job , but everyone will benefit if funds are redistributed in areas where it is most needed .
LYONS : Many people believe that the concept of white privilege is a myth . What does white privilege mean to you and why is it so often misunderstood ?
WILLIAMS : To me , the term white privilege does not mean that whites are not mistreated , that whites don ’ t live in poverty , or that whites are not murdered . White privilege means that whites have a built-in advantage simply because they are white ( they benefit from the color of their skin ). Blacks do not enjoy this advantage . Whites have the privilege of living their life unconsciously while blacks live a calculated life . Whites don ’ t have to worry about being racially profiled . White people don ’ t have to worry about being denied jobs , opportunities to further their education , or experience housing discrimination because they are white . Whites are not followed or watched closely when shopping . Even when learning about American history , students in schools are taught that white people made America what it is , and little to nothing is mentioned about the contributions of blacks . Our criminal justice system highlights white privilege at its best . Once arrested , people of color are more likely to be charged more harshly than whites ; once charged , they are more likely to be convicted ; once convicted , they are more likely to face stiffer sentences .
Peggye McIntosh , author of the prominent essay , “ White Privilege , Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack ,” recognizes the existence of white privilege stating that it is , “ unearned assets that she can count on cashing in each day , but about which she was ‘ meant ’ to remain oblivious .” This is the meaning of white privilege .
See BREATHE , Page 18
The Docket · November 2020 11