The “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” pose by the five Rams players reminded me of the poignant Black Power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. Smith and Carlos wore black leather gloves and held their fists in the air during the ceremony to symbolize the black struggle for civil rights in America. The Rams players stood in solidarity for human rights last Sunday just like Smith and Carlos stood for human rights 46 years ago.
Smith and Carlos didn’t apologize for their actions in 1968 and Bailey, Austin, Cook, Givens and Britt won’t apologize for their protest today. And they shouldn’t.
“We kind of came collectively together and decided we wanted to do something,” Cook told ESPN. “We wanted to come out and show our respect to the protests and the people who have been doing a heck of a job around the world.”
Cook is certainly not alone. President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, two of the nation’s most powerful men, are trying to bridge the divide between police and the communities of color. The President has instructed his team to draft an executive order creating a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and announced that Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey will chair the Task Force.
Obama is also proposing a three-year $263 million package that will increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement agencies and add more resources for police department reform.
“Part of the reason this time will be different is because the President of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different,” Obama said. “I will be signing an executive order that specifies how we are going to make sure that that program is accountable, how we are going to make sure that that program is transparent and how we’re going to make sure that we’re not building a militarized culture inside our local law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, while Obama and Holder are correctly proposing national policies on race and policing, Gloria McCollum works tirelessly in the trenches helping black cops fight for racial equality. On Tuesday afternoon, she was meeting with a group of black police officers.
“It is important for me to represent African-American police officers,” McCollum told me, “because they need a strong voice.”