During CNN’s second Libertarian town hall Wednesday night, the party’s presidential nominee Gary Johnson was asked a poignant question by audience member Shetamia Taylor, a black woman who was wounded during the shooting murders of Dallas police officers by a lone gunman last month.
Taylor noted that she was there as part of the Black Lives Matter movement to protest peacefully, and wanted to know Johnson’s perspective on the problem of police brutality in black America.
The former New Mexico governor said that when it comes to race relations, particularly for a white man like himself, “My head’s been in the sand on this.”
“I think we’ve all had our heads in the sand,” Johnson added.
Johnson is right. There has been a national blindness toward this problem because many simply didn’t even realize it existed. During the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, I made similar points:
Black Americans endure a harshly different reality than what most white Americans experience when it comes to law enforcement. For the first time in a long time, black Americans feel like they have a national opportunity to be heard, to affect change and, hopefully, improve their lives.
White Americans do not have to approve of or agree with everything the protesters in Ferguson and St. Louis are saying or doing. But more should be willing to hear their side.
More should finally acknowledge that they have a side.
Whites who might say black Americans should also be willing to hear other perspective are not wrong, but must understand that many blacks have felt like no one has listened to them in any serious manner. Young black men dying at the hands of police has been happening for a long time and few if any authority figures have tried to do something about it…
If we’re going to make this country better, we’re all going to have to start listening to each other and try to be more understanding in ways we haven’t before. For too long, particularly when these types of controversies arise, it has been blacks talking to each other and whites talking to each other but not enough of both talking to one another. We probably need more listening than talking.
“Black Americans have a pressing story to tell, in Ferguson, St. Louis and beyond,” I added. “And it is tragic. Let’s hear it.”
Johnson’s sympathy for the black community on this front isn’t unusual for those coming from a libertarian perspective.
Senator Rand Paul addressed racial disparities in our legal system in 2014 during the Ferguson upheaval.
“Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them,” Paul wrote at Time in 2014.
“This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri,” the senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate added. “Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention.”
“Let’s wake up,” Gary Johnson said Wednesday night. “This discrimination does exist.”