The Struggle Continues: That Fake $20 Bill Might Buy True Police Reform

By Thomas Muhammad

“I do not pretend to be a divine man, but I do believe in divine guidance, divine power and in the fulfillment of divine prophecy. I am not educated nor am I an expert in any particular field… but I am sincere and my sincerity is my credential!” –Malcolm X, March 12 1964. 

I used this quote by Malcolm to illustrate his honesty in challenging the civil rights leaders demanding human rights. He reasoned that when you are seen as a fellow human your civil rights are given! Listen to the vast majority of young Black protesters they are screaming that all they want is to be treated as human beings!

We are once again at a place when the plight of America’s Black masses has engulfed the world! This time people all over the world are taking a knee in an attempt to show solidarity with the image made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who sacrificed losing his job spotlighting police abuse of Black Americans at the hands of white police officers. There are now tons of images of police chiefs and ordinary officers taking a knee, some alongside protesters and one must admit that yes it’s an awesome sight. But to young folk on this emotional ride; don’t forget what brought you here!

Remember it was police murders and abuses, particularly of innocent Black males, that has to stop now! In this moment of high visibility, you must work toward a solution because a different, hateful emotion will soon follow this one and you’ll be right back where you were before George Floyd’s brutal death!

That horrendous image of a smirking and callous look on the face of Officer Derek Chauvin as his knee shoved in the neck of Brother Floyd, literally choking out his life out was akin to what many of us 1960s children saw on Emmett Till’s face as he lay in his coffin at his funeral.

Till was a 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, demanded that he have an open-casket funeral because she wanted the world to see what white bigotry did to her innocent son! Malcolm X went around the nation speaking and showing that picture to Black audiences to highlight hatred of Blacks in America! And as a veteran of hundreds of protests, my life experiences have taught me that what is important in these types of events is to use this existing moment to come up with a solution that would avoid a recurrence.

Let’s take that fake 20 dollar bill Floyd was supposed to have had and buy Strong Citizens Police Review Boards, complete with a subpoena and investigative powers, with a solidly-financed budget for major cities across America! By now it should be perfectly clear that police should never be allowed to investigate themselves, especially in possible murder charges or other types of physical abuse cases. Here’s a case in point! Officer Derek Chauvin had had 18 offenses lodged against him during his 18 years of working on the force, but not one complaint stuck until that fateful day when 17-year-old Darnella Frazier taped him committing a crime — taking Brother Floyd’s life. 

A strong police review board of empowered citizens probably could have caught him on his second offense and gotten the department to terminate him from the force. My long-time friend, Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison, now has formally charged all four officers, including upgrading charges of Chauvin to second-degree murder. Justice seems assured!

But as Attorney Ellison warned the people of his state that this isn’t a slam dunk case, and based on my experiences he’s damn right! White juries have historically let cops off even in murder cases as horrible as the Floyd case. A strong police review board, with the type of powers cited above, is the best answer for the future. And yes be pissed off with President Donald Trump for his lack of feeling and his lack of calling for a change in America’s policing tactics! But, please folks don’t get caught up in the emotional partisan crap that political opportunists are trying to spread!

Let’s be honest!

Former President Barack Obama and Joe Biden, his Vice President, didn’t prioritize solving police abuse during their administration. In fact, many of the names of Black people who suffered at the hands of police abuse happened under their watch! The repercussions from a lack of actions climaxed into the stark killings of five white police who were systematically sniped from rooftops in downtown Dallas along with police ambushes throughout America done by Black ex-army soldiers. Black Lives Matter was first born during the Obama/Biden administration in 2012 and lasted till the end of their term in the White House.

Beginning with Michael Brown to Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and young 12-year-old Tamir Rice: killed while playing with a water pistol in a park. Black ex-soldiers went on killing sprees seeking to avenge police killings. And you can best believe that if nothing meaningful comes from this latest killing those types of events happen again. Biden is promising to create a National Police Oversight Board, should he be elected in November. On that I’ll simply quote Brother Malcolm, “Time will tell!”

Let’s face it the reality is that video of Floyd’s killing and the fact that there are millions; primarily young White kids out of schools, unable to work and therefore have plenty of time on their hands, is the main reason these protests have been tremendously huge and have grown to world popularity. It’s also why the protests are peaceful and white cops are not wholesale killing protesters! It would be very difficult to get away with that in the public.

If they did there most definitely would be hell to pay from even white bigot conservatives! In Dallas, we collected 20,000 signatures in 1989 and placed a vote for a strong police review board on the ballot and we lost big time; because of a campaign led by the Dallas Police Association. I will never forget how some Black elders in Black South Dallas told me, “Honey I’m gonna vote against you cause baby we need the police and y’all trying to get rid of em!” It was a pure lie, but we were defenseless against the police union and its heavily-funded war chest that ran ads convincing seniors we were trying to close the department.

And if there’s one thing that has remained constant in the battle for true police reform is that white police unions everywhere will always stand in protection of bad cops and yes even bigoted cops like Chauvin. Don’t get me wrong, police are needed. So you don’t believe we do? Tell me what would you do, if you left your home only to return and your home or car has been robbed. Now tell me who you gonna call, the New Black Panther Party?

I love my dear brother, Aaron Michaels, a founder of the New Black Panther Party, but should I believe he can find and arrest the perpetrators that robbed me? Do you? Hell no, he couldn’t! Police are needed or there would be pure chaos right? We just simply want them to be held accountable to all of their tax-paying citizens, and not kill us over petty bul$/@;#t or physically abuse citizens, simply because some officer is having a bad day!

Of course, there are some of my dear friends and comrades who are calling for abolishing police departments! And I’m saying okay I could be for that. But first, you gotta convince me that crime could be eradicated without them. I strongly believe it is the most crucial time for getting real police changes while America’s heartstrings are beating with the rhythm of police reforms. Now is the time to spend that fake 20 dollar bill that cost a wonderful life; and buy some true police reforms before some fake civil rights political opportunists take charge and pull a con on ya! Take this advice from an old protest veteran, Homey! Until then the Struggle Continues…

Thomas Muhammad is Chairman of the National Black United Front (NBUF)-Dallas Texas Chapter