The barriers facing black people in America today are numerous and daunting: poor schools, dangerous neighborhoods, lack of income, wealth, and connections, persistent formal and informal discrimination in so many settings. The list goes on, and it certainly includes many problems with our criminal justice system, from over-criminalization to degrading conditions of imprisonment to oppressive and violent policing.
Of all the problems facing black Americans, problems in the criminal justice system should be among the easiest to address. This does not mean we can wave a magic wand and make these problems disappear. But there are many promising ideas for reform; a careful effort to reform policing that would make a real difference. We can quibble over the details and test different approaches, but we have a good idea of what needs to be done.
The combination of clear injustice, persistent and brave protesters, and promising policy ideas should make this a moment of hope for Americans, an opportunity to make measurable progress on a journey that has taken far too long.
Instead of grasping this opportunity with open arms, Trump is doing everything in his power to divide us for political gain. Fortunately, Trump may not succeed. We have made real progress since 1968. Even many Republicans are concerned with police violence. Plus, we have cell phones. Ironically, Trump’s resistance may keep the protests alive and underscore the need for change. Let’s hope.