“It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again”

I have lived through times of race riots where the flash point causing the protests was an act of police brutality. I watched a few years ago as many protests under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” drew attention to a continuation of violence against black men simply for being black.

A few evenings ago I watched again as people protested the lack of police and government officials looking out for everyone. One difference, this protest was only 40 miles from my home and a few blocks from my son’s apartment. I know when an unarmed black man was shot in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago my son participated in the Black Lives Matter protests that tried to draw attention to the problem. This time I had turned on the TV to watch the local evening news in order to see the weather forecast and was met with scenes of a smoldering police car. I couldn’t help but fear for my son.

In just a few minutes many police cars showed up and they took over the street the reporter was on. As some of the cars tried to get to that block young white males were attacking them with skate boards, breaking the windows and I’m sure making the officers inside feel threatened. But those officers didn’t turn their cars into weapons, they didn’t deploy weapons against those protesters. Was this because they were being professional or because they recognized those agitators as members of local far-right groups. I hope they were being professional, but a sad reality is that the other possibility wouldn’t be unheard of today.

One of the strengths of our experiment in self rule is the Constitution that basically says you can’t be jailed without some form of probable cause. Those accused are to be treated as “innocent until proven guilty.”

It is really hard to follow these ideals when things are happening quickly. When people wanting to get money through looting or with some extreme political agenda hijack a protest then things happen very quickly. When dialog is opened up, like a sheriff walking with the protestors, or officers taking a knee with the protestors, discussions can start. It will take more than discussions though. It will take changing policies. It may take changing personnel.

I’ve been really confused the past couple of years as to what a “conservative” is supposed to stand for. I don’t wear that label, but nearly all the local politicians here do. The policies I see proposed by those claiming a conservative label don’t seem to conserve anything of any value. As the Republican primary in my home state is approaching I’m not able to watch the local news without seeing many ads for candidates claiming to be the “true” conservative in the race.

A few years ago a town a few hours drive from me but still in my state tried to pass a city ordinance requiring every home in the town to have a gun. It was proposed and backed by a man who served in the state legislature. He claimed it was the conservative way to do things. I’m trying to understand what it would conserve. I feel requiring that would infringe on my freedom to choose what is in my home. The Second Amendment doesn’t include the words, “thou shalt have a gun in thy home.”

In my confusion as to why these things are conservative I came across an article by a conservative icon, George Will. Apparently his definition of conservative is different than these people arguing over which candidate is a “true” conservative. In the article he calls not only for November’s election to go against the current administration but to also vote out the Republicans in the Congress and Senate who are enabling Trump and his minions. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand what a conservative is but after reading this morning about the tear gassing of an Episcopalian priest to clear the way for Trump and some of his minions to have a photo taken, I find myself in agreement with George Will.

I’m not naive enough to think that would solve the problems at the heart of the current situation. I think it could help start things, or restart things, going in the right direction. The place real change needs to occur is at the local levels.

About 20 years ago I had left the dominant religion in my area. You would have to live in Utah for a while to understand just what kind of sway that church has here. Some people in the community the school I was teaching at became aware of my leaving. I’m not sure how as I wasn’t in people’s faces about it. They seemed to feel that gave them a right to lie about what was going on in my classroom. Thankfully they needed more evidence than just one or two people’s words. I got to where I was almost afraid some days to go to work. I can only imagine what being a person of color in some communities is like. That same fear I was feeling, along with a fear for your life, even when at home. At least I wasn’t in fear of them coming to my house and breaking in with false, sorry, mistaken, charges under the protection given by being police officers. Some things finally came down to there needed to be a hearing with school district officials to deal with some of it yet they kept putting off and delaying that hearing. Finally I hired an attorney, since my union wasn’t seeming to help. It cost me $50 for the attorney to write one letter. Suddenly I had a date for my hearing. Then while preparing with union leaders for my hearing, the school district people called up and said I had won.

Their having their attorney look at what my attorney said in a letter and what the school principal had said and what documentation he had, made them see they would loose the hearing, and probably the ensuing litigation. Many people of color don’t have a way to do that, especially when dealing with interactions with the police. It wasn’t the federal or state courts that made them see the light. It was the threat of those courts.

One thing I have seen at the recent protests is there are people of more than one skin color at them. If it just had been black people, those white guys attacking the police car would have stood out more and it would have been easier to find who was hijacking the protests. The different groups have to come together to support and elect local officials that will dismantle the institutional bigotry. These allies need to elect mayors that see to it police are trained and held accountable. They need to elect county, or district, attorneys who will hold police accountable. They need to elect state officials who will hold police and local officials accountable. Along with this, and even if we can achieve this in our lifetimes, the people need to hold the elected officials accountable.

If people will do this, then I can go back to writing about being sex-positive, I will enjoy religious freedom for at least part of my life, and the ideal of all lives mattering will be our reality because black lives will matter, brown lives will matter, etc. I really hope people will do what needs to be done so I won’t feel “it’s déjà vu all over again” about this topic at some future date.


©2018 Michael Yocom 

If you want to contact me with a question, or some other help I can offer, please use this form

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon