Wes Lowery is a likeable, humble yet intense, fast-talking and quick-minded thinker. He followed up his Pulitzer victory by sharing experiences, observations and analyses in a book entitled They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement. He started his book with the tale of his being swept up and arrested by cops who shamelessly abused their powers as they randomly snatched protestors and objective observers like him and tossing them into jail. For nothing.
Oh, how I can relate.
“Within seconds two officers grabbed me, each seizing an arm … Then came the sharp sting of the plastic zip tie as it was sealed around my hands, pinching right at the corners of my wrists,” Lowery wrote in the introduction to the book.
Yes, and what a humongous story The War in America is.
I spoke with Lowery while we were both attending the 2016 convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Washington, DC, in the Marriott Wardman Park international hotel.
I asked him whether he thought it would be reasonable for journalists to call the repeated, injurious and all too-often fatal interactions between blacks and law enforcement a “war.”
He instantly replied, “No. I think it would be irresponsible to call it a war.”
“Why,” I asked?
“It’s not a war because the police are attacking black people. Black people are not attacking back, except for a few incidents now and then,” Lowery said. “So, no, it should not be called a war. That’s totally irresponsible.”
“What should we call it?”
“I don’t know. That’s something we need to think about actually, but I wouldn’t call it war.”
People can see a thing without knowing exactly what they are looking at, even insightful and brilliant writers like Wesley Lowery.
He and other reporters do not realize they are covering an actual war. This is not intended to offend. This is telling it like it is. Reporters generally, and black reporters in particular, look closely at the constant conflicts between blacks and law enforcement, but fail to define what it is they are covering. Perhaps they are using the wrong set of eyes. Maybe they are using eyes influenced by the conventional wisdom and limited insights of their formal educations, old school mentors and staid editors, producers and sponsors. Or maybe they see through the eyes they inherited from fore parents who were indoctrinated to wait for white folk to define reality for them.
It is crucial that activists, journalists, elected officials, advocates, community leaders and others open mindedly explore the notion that what they are seeing is indeed war—an undeclared, multilayered, individualized, unconventional and well-established war. This matter deserves a vigorous open debate, because accurately defining a problem is the key to solving it.
You cannot know how to respond to something, if you do not know what it is.
Again, I ask you, what do you call the prolonged conflicts between law men and black men?
If you have no answer, no worries. You are in the company of millions.
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