The recent deaths of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana at the hands of police officers have been described as “needless deaths.” That’s an understatement; “needless deaths” could equally well refer to falling off a cliff.
Unfortunately, white Americans seem to need reminding that black lives matter. Are these suddenly visible actions by police simply become so common that people have lost interest? Or are they evidence of America’s abiding racism? The police are us and our silence affirms our acceptance of unequal treatment.
Consider the numbers and sentence lengths of incarcerated black men. Compare it with the white population. Thank Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst for their sponsorship of fairer sentencing laws, but also remind them that it is only a beginning.
Consider which race is more likely to be subjected to “routine” traffic stops. In some places, black men seem to have no good choices. They can be roughed up or shot, even when they are complying with police orders. If they survive this, many are tricked into guilty pleas by public defenders whom they see briefly or not at all. In Iowa, many will never be able to vote or receive public services again. It’s not hard to see why some run from police.
Race still matters, in Iowa and the rest of the nation.
Kathleen J. Hall