Why White Politicians Should Say Black Lives Matter

It's time for white politicians to acknowledge institutional racism.
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It's time for white politicians to acknowledge institutional racism.

As a member of Cincinnati's City Council, I was at yesterday's news conference concerning the shooting death of Samuel DuBose.

While I'm heartened that the University of Cincinnati police officer who shot Mr. DuBose has been indicted for murder, it's clear that this incident is part and parcel of a far larger problem that our society must admit exists.

That problem is institutional racism - and a failure to confront it head-on is why several white politicians have received critical reactions recently when they told audiences that "all lives matter."

We say "black lives matter" because we want our society to reflect that black lives matter as much as anyone else's. And far too often and for far too long, that hasn't been the case.

Now - in light of what's been happening with frightening frequency all around the country - recognizing that black lives matter has taken on a special urgency.

In Baltimore, Freddie Gray had his spine nearly severed in the back of a police van.

In New York, Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes on a street corner - and wound up dead when an arresting officer put him in a chokehold.

In Cleveland, 12-year old Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun in a park near his home - and was shot and killed less than 2 seconds after police arrived on the scene.

In Texas, Sandra Bland was found hanged in her jail cell shortly after being yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, and arrested after police pulled her over for not using her turn signal.

And now - just a few days ago in my hometown of Cincinnati - Samuel DuBose was shot in the head and killed after a University of Cincinnati police officer stopped him for driving without a front license plate.

In too many cases, the police treat people who look like me differently than they treat people who look like Freddie, Tamir or Samuel.

Too many employers - as President Obama put it - call John back for a job interview, but not Jamal.

And worst of all, too many black lives are being lost under suspicious circumstances or following petty crimes that don't even merit jail time, let alone the death penalty.

It's time to admit that not every problem in our inner cities is related to economics.

It's time to admit that institutional racism exists.

And it's time to admit that we will never be the society we want to be until we confront it - honestly, openly, and head-on.

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