Finding common ground amid civil unrest

Monifa Bandele, the senior campaign director of MomsRising.Org, Journalist Ian Tuttle, a fellow at the National Review, and retired NY police detective Marquez Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance discuss their thoughts on how to find common ground on policing, protest and race.

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    While pundits and cable news graphics claim we are a nation divided, the reality is we are a nation of diverse opinions and experiences and we're not necessarily always at odds. We've invited three people with three different perspectives to share their thoughts and discuss how we might find common ground on policing, protests, and race.

    Joining me here in the studio are Monifa Bandele, senior campaign director of, Journalist, Ian Tuttle, a writer and fellow at the National Review, and Mark Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, and a retired New York Police detective. Thanks to all of you for being here. We're going to use first names for this conversations.


    Thank you.


    Monifa, you helped start Cop Watch in 1999, trained teams all around about how to monitor the police. I want to know from you what was the hardest thing to get your head around after the events that happened in Texas, Minneapolis, and in Louisiana?


    Almost surreal. You know, when we first started doing Cop Watch and videotaping police cellphones didn't exist, viral video was not around, there wasn't even Facebook in 1999. And so this idea that people could take video and it could go viral, and it could be rapid response in a way that it took a long time. One it's just, like, really powerful that this wave of activism has really developed and exploded in many ways as we've seen in these cities.

    And then the other piece I thought about is this new talk now that we have to have without children as parents which is about watching these videos over and over. And I find myself each morning when those videos came out with the killing of the man in Louisiana, and in Minnesota, one I have to hurry up and get to my children and say there's video out, it'll be on Snapchat, it'll be in your Newsfeed, but you need to prepare yourself in a way that we didn't experience when we were younger because it's almost retraumatizing (ph).


    As a retired police officer what was hard to recognize for you after the events of the past two weeks?


    I tell you, it wasn't — it's not difficult for me to reconcile these things. They are — I expect them at this point given the tragic history of events, given the tragic history of poor police community relations, given the fact that I realize we live in a world where we have crazy folk out there. And sometimes those crazy people will engage in all types of violent acts, and even sometimes against authority or government, for example.

    So, there is nothing shocking, shocking. It is, however, quite traumatic, as Monifa had indicated, to watch, to observe these videos over, and over again. And it's also traumatic to have to live through, explain, rationalize, many of the events, you know, that the videos depict.


    You're a young guy, you write for a self-identified conservative publication. What about the events of the last two weeks struck a chord with you.


    None of these events seem particularly unexpected given what we've seen over the past two years, unfortunately. Unfortunately also I think we've been unwilling to, sort of, desegregate what, to a certain extent, different events that need to be, sort of, properly contextualized. In the deaths of Alton Sterling, and Philander Castille we have a certain type of violence, and as Monifa points out, now we have, sort of, instant access to that.

    The flip side of accountability is snap judgement which, as we saw in the case of Michael Brown or Freddie Grey, some of these other cases, many of those snap judgements turn out to be wrong, turn out to be unjustifiable, whereas in Dallas we had a very obvious case of what was effectively domestic terror.

    So, it's simply important in the context of several different tragedies to also be differentiating the circumstances surrounding these events. And by doing that, I think we can figure out more constructive way to address all of them.


    We ought to keep in context, and we ought to keep it in historical context. And, as Monifa indicated, the reaction, the response — sometimes visceral response, is not, you know, of rush to judgement, per se. But it is a reaction to what people see and observe, and recognize to be a system that is in need of reform and that there are individuals out there who act — who under the color of law perpetrate certain offenses against civilian population that leads to their death.

    And, then the argument becomes instead of what caused this, how did this happen, was it avoidable, now it becomes a situation where people saw was it justified or not justified?


    Monifa, you've been talking about — we've all been talking about people who react immediately. I'm curious what you think about people who really aren't that interested. Obviously, people are interested in the loss of life and feel pain and sadness about that, but you know aren't that deeply involved as activists are. It doesn't affect their daily lives, it doesn't come to their front door. They aren't really interested in police reform. What would you say to those people who are like, this is just a headline they read in the news, and then they move on to the rest of their lives?


    That it's important that we step on other people's shoes. I mean, that's the only way that we're going to come up with a collective solution. That's the only way we're going to be able to actualize the affirmation that black lives matter, right? So everyone kind of has to step outside their own experience and take a look at this because there are people right next to them that can't step out of the situation.


    When you talk about people who are removed from this situation, what you're really talking about is white people because black can't afford to be totally removed from the situation. We've heard countless stories no matter what socio-economic status, no matter where you live, no matter who you are. This is your reality and you have to deal with it, address it, or confront it at some point.

    So, you know, just to be clear, black folk can't afford to be removed from the situation at any level.


    And you've written about Black Lives Matter, and you've been complimentary about some parts of the movement, and you've had criticism of other parts of the movement. Tell me one thing that you think the movement is really accomplishing that's positive, and something about the movement that troubles you?


    I think Monifa laid out what, to me, seems like a philosophical common ground which is that the Black Lives Matter movement, in my reading, is predicated on this, sort of, imaginative act of compassion which is step out of yourself. People who don't understand the pain and the fear that does exist in the black community, step out of your lives and into that position and try to understand it. I think that's a way — it can be a very powerful way to dissolve barriers.

    What I'm critical of is that a lot of Black Lives Matter activists don't seem to be willing to do that for law enforcement. You look at a situation like we had shortly after Dallas where you talked to police officers — I have police officers in my family who talked about this as well. police officers across the country were frightened, they were very scared. Perhaps more afraid than they've been in years. And the act of a lot of Black Lives Matter demonstrators was to ratchet up tensions in places like Baton Rouge, and Saint Paul, and Chicago, to become violent.

    That to me says that a lot of activists are willing — are demanding something of people who don't understand the fear in the black community, and they're not willing to do that for law enforcement and for others.


    A final question for all of you. What could each of you do with people who are in your community who are like minded folks, whether they be activists or police officers, or conservative, or writers and journalists. What is one thing that your community could do to find common ground with other people? What do you think? One thing?


    Promote the idea that we have to being honest conversation and dialogue that leads to action. Let's not be in denial about the role that race plays in law enforcement. Let's not be naive about that race plays with interact with police. Let's not dismiss the experiences of my community, for example. It's not a collective hallucination. The data will validate and substantiate that.

    So, I think honest education that leads to action is the key.


    What's something that activists can do to help find common ground with other folks?


    Activists right now really feel it's premature to jump to a kumbaya moment because so many families are waiting for justice. So, the moment that has to happen before the coming together has to be to deal with the on-going denial of justice that's happening. We have to actually deal with that, and deal with those incidents before we can then come together and have some kind of resolve. The pain has to stop first before you can come together.


    And, Ian, to you?


    Well, I sort of spoke earlier about that, the active imagination, the act of compassion, I think, is important for writers who are offering opinions and frequently spend their time needling the rest. That's sort of the nature of the punditocracy, so to speak.

    But, also a lot of us are on the front lines of policy discussions, and I think looking for active ways in which through municipal governments, or state governments particularly, we can find reforms that both law enforcement and activists can get behind to push this effort forward.


    Ian Tuttle, Monia Bandele, and Mark Claxton. Thank you so much for joining us.

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