A Libertarian Finds Common Ground with Black Lives Matter

Oct 20, 2018

I want to make something clear before I begin. I’m conservative. I disagree with a premise of the Black Lives Matter movement: that the police force in America is defined and corrupted by institutional racism.

Are there individual police officers who are racist? Yes, and this is totally unacceptable, but it doesn't mean that police are defined by it or that the system is currently set up to be racist toward minorities. 

However, though I have a perspective that seems totally opposed to the goals and beliefs espoused by members of this movement, it doesn't mean that we can’t come to an agreement.

I also consider myself to be a libertarian. What I mean by that is very specific. Conservative libertarians, like me, are afraid of an ambitious government that sees its citizens’ rights as suggestions or guidelines, instead of sacred laws.

Those laws simultaneously give the government its legitimacy, and are untouchable. We give the government its legitimacy, through our consent to be governed. Call it what you will, fascism, socialism, or totalitarianism, I’m terrified of the threat of an authoritarian America.

This is where BLM and I have common ground. Though I disagree with many of the defining beliefs of the movement, the one crucial similarity that we have is a suspicion for the authoritarian leanings of the police, the overly aggressive tactics they use, and the government that employs them. It is in the interests of all of us that we have control over our government, and not the other way around. 

But why are the authoritarian leanings of the police a problem at all? Do Conservative libertarians and BLM supporters really have anything to worry about? That’s a good question. In 2017, 457 white people were shot by police out of almost 200 million, according to The Washington Post. This means that if you’re white, there’s a .00023 percent chance that you will be shot by the police within the year.

That number jumps to a .0006 percent chance if you are black. In the past three years, according to the Post, there have been less than 1,000 fatal shootings by police. In a nation of more than 300 million, this doesn't seem to be a significant problem.

But here’s the thing: just because we may not have a problem now doesn't mean there isn’t the potential for a problem in the future.

There’s a reason why airport security was so lax in the 90s. The terrorism epidemic we have now didn't exist then. We need to start finding solutions to these social problems before they truly manifest.

In our society, there is a surprising lack of accountability for officers who are supposed to serve us. Yes, most police officers are good people, but what we need to remember is that they are people, with firearms, and the backing of the government to do whatever they perceive to be the right thing. That’s an awful lot of potentially unaccountable power we are bestowing upon ordinary everyday people. 

How does it make you feel to know that patrolling our streets are armed officers who can treat you however they feel, with very little accountability? The level of freedom we give to these people, many of whom if given a choice, would not extend that freedom back to us, is frightening to me. 

I took a criminal justice college course that was taught by my high school resource officer. He told the class, “Police are more concerned with keeping order than protecting the rights of the individual. Because of this, becoming a police officer breeds an authoritarian outlook.” It’s a complicated, and often a morally ambiguous job which teaches its workers that the people they protect are anything but innocent.

So what can we do to protect ourselves and encourage accountability in our police? This is what I would suggest: We should create a newly elected council for each state, separate from the police structure, that would review the actions of the police. 

Much like the supreme court, this council would be made up of an odd number of council officers. This elected council would take several responsibilities currently held by the State Attorney General.  There would be terms, so that we, the citizens, can have the most control possible over who sits on the council.

All officers should have body cameras, which would preferably be filming constantly, but could be turned off if the officer were using the bathroom, or for other reasons. 

Police departments that have begun to use body cameras have already given valuable footage for charges of abuse, evidence that would not have existed otherwise. 

They also protect police, as false charges of abuse of power could be verified. This was seen in a recent case, according to CNN. Officer Daniel Hubbard of Texas was accused by Sherita Dixon-Cole of sexual assault while she was in the process of being arrested. When the body camera footage came to light, it was clear that no wrongdoing took place. The footage was so clear that even her lawyer apologized for accusing him.

Arrest policy would have to change as well. In order for an arrest by police to be valid, it would have to be recorded by the body camera. 

We as a society need to hold up the positive actions of the police, as well. We need to show that the police really aren’t very different from us. They are just regular people. Publishing more news stories about the good deeds of the police would encourage this behavior. 

Admittedly, these precautions may seem extensive, but we have to remember why they are necessary. We, the citizens, have too little control over the police. Our collective consent gives the police and government legitimacy, at least theoretically. 

The current state of affairs may not seem bad right now, but you don’t need to look too far back in history before you see countless examples of unchecked and unaccountable government power leading to rampant abuse. Venezuela and North Korea are the two most recent examples of this. These precautions could help us from following the same path. 

On this note, Conservative Libertarians, and supporters of Black Lives Matter, can finally come together on a common issue, the unaccountability of the police. Perhaps with this bipartisan issue, we can continue to try to find common goals with our political adversaries. We need to start to come together as a nation again. 

Caleb Whiting-Grant is a student at Marshwood High School in South Berwick.

Sources

“People Shot to Death by U.S. Police 2017-2018, by Race | Statistic.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/.

“Fatal Force: 2018 Police Shootings Database.” The Washington Post, WP Company, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/police-shootings-2018/?noredirect=on.

Boudette, Neal E. “U.S. Traffic Deaths Rise for a Second Straight Year.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/business/highway-traffic-safety.html.

Dedaj, Paulina. “Body Cam Footage Contradicts Woman's Claim Trooper Sexually Assaulted Her; Lawyer Apologizes.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 23 May 2018, www.foxnews.com/us/2018/05/23/body-cam-footage-contradicts-womans-claim-trooper-sexually-assaulted-her-lawyer-apologizes.html.

Burnside, Tina. “Body Cam Video Refutes Texas Woman's Sex Assault Claim against State Trooper.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 May 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/05/24/us/texas-trooper-cleared-sex-assault-claim/index.html.