Bernie Sanders, Racial Justice and Policing


My sparring partner on Facebook (Neil Shock) and I have exchanged a little on the subject of the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ protests at a couple of Bernie Sanders’ political events.

Neil directed me to the views of Bernie, on policing and racial justice. I had two separate comments to make. I set ’em out:

“We have communities in this country who feel that the police are going to war on them. You do not correct that imbalance by going to war on the police.

Why is it that almost every American I meet has no concept of the notion of collective policing, as it was originally conceived, namely that policing takes place only with the consent of the community?

If you are one who feels that your community has or should withdraw its consent, then establish a process that re-establishes the notion of consent. Don’t whine. And don’t go to war.

Police are not authorities unto themselves, with whom we need to barter or go to war. They are public employees, who perform only with our consent. And therein lies the solution.

Every single law enforcement agency in this country is beholden to a civilian institution for its funding. And those institutions are run by elected officials.

Make it a condition of voting for a candidate that they will enforce a new social compact with police, who after all are no more and no less than public employees, a new social compact which states that, in return for funds, police must henceforth accept that their rules of engagement and operation are to be drafted and monitored by those elected officials, in conjunction with police and concerned citizens, but no longer by the police on their own.

It really is as simple as that. I call it ‘citizen design of policing’ []. You can call it whatever you like. And operate it in your locale however you like.

The one thing we do not need to do, when a simple approach like this presents itself, is to meet war with war.”


“Bernie Sanders, bless him, is basically a professorial type, gloriously out of water. Give him a chance to get used to this sort of attention, and his responses might improve.

His groupies, the ones doing all the tutting, are looking ahead to the conversation they think they are going to have, the one where they tell Bernie it’s time to grow up, because this is looking serious now.

A conversation in which I hope Bernie limits himself to two words, the first one beginning with f, and the second one ending with the same letter.

Now I used to be a tacky political operator. And if I was advising Bernie, I’d say, don’t mess about, invite BLM to draft your platform on structural racism. With a very specific program as to how to address it.

Make the pledge: you draft it; it ain’t crazy; I get elected; you’ll be given the remit to implement it. Now, put your money where your mouth is.

I personally have very little time for empty words. I believe in doing (cf. citizen design of policing:

The only thing is, I simply do not understand why I, a white, sort of progressive, reformed British Conservative, am the one advancing this concept. Where are the US progressives – white, black or polka dot?

I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered since being in this country. There are too many folks having too much fun saying no. And not enough doing the hard, difficult, unseen job of designing the yes.”

As a consequence of my post, a rather interesting discussion began to develop here.

Published in: on August 11, 2015 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Achievable Aspiration -v- Misplaced Envy


There was an article in yesterday’s NYTimes, about which I’ve been thinking long and hard these past twelve hours or so. Something about it deeply disturbed me.

Why does anyone think they deserve what someone else has, rather than striving to improve their own lot?

I’m about ready to give up on labels. So, I’m not going to try to classify my politics in this post.

But people are not born equal. We have different gifts, different talents, different flaws. I believe in equality of opportunity. But aiming for equality of outcome is an unnatural ambition, which only leads to resentment.

And so it is that I keep reading this article, looking for efforts to improve systemic housing, educational and economic opportunities for those currently in disadvantage. And all I find are people who want to go live with the rich white folk.

Isn’t this just self-defeating?

I really would prefer we try to design policies and programs that are truly color-blind. That work to re-shape communities at risk. With public subsidy where necessary.

But I keep coming up against people who want nothing more than to identify and isolate black people as black people. Black people as much as white folk.

Maybe I suffer from still being an outsider. But, as that outsider, what I see are both black and white straining to maintain segregation.

If you aim for a society that deliberately treats black and white differently, even if the ambition is well-meaning, you merely create a new form of segregation.

The path to true integration lies in creating rules that apply and opportunities that are available equally to all parties.

Wanting what the other person has, leaving your disadvantaged community to go live with the rich people, may serve as a short-term fix. But it actually perpetuates segregation and disadvantage.

Why not instead join forces with your community, create political and economic muscle in numbers, and work for improvement?

Published in: on August 10, 2015 at 6:33 pm  Leave a Comment