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‘A Stain on the Integrity of Our Nation and Our Values': One Veteran Hollywood Exec Reflects (Guest Blog)

”It is impossible for All lives to matter unless Black lives matter; and anyone who doesn’t see that — and can’t affirm that — is either a despicable human being or a fool,“ former Combs Enterprises COO Brian Offutt writes

Throughout the history of our country, acts of violence and atrocities have been committed against Black men and boys, often with impunity. The worst of these are the acts of violence perpetrated by police officers sworn to protect all Americans, equally, under the law. This is a stain on the integrity of our nation and our values, an embarrassment to all Americans. And it is a lingering threat to safety, and a cause of constant anxiety, fear and sometimes danger to Black men — and, more and more in recent years, Black women — and those who love them. Do not doubt: I can personally attest that every Black person deals in day-to-day life (to a larger or smaller degree) with the psychic impact of this reality.

Since the advent of the iPhone and police body cams, these incidents have become ever more public. Over the past few years, we have seen denial become increasingly implausible, and organized protesters (such as Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick) have effectively brought a bigger and bigger spotlight to the issue. Even as I grieve for George Floyd for the horror he endured in his final moments and his family for the unspeakably tragic loss they face, I am glad that finally — finally — the nation has become embroiled in dialogue and is being forced to confront the truth and deal with it.

I am more a child of Martin than Malcolm. As such, I believe that peaceful protests — as massive and localized as possible — are the best way to focus the nation on an issue and force the powers that be to bring about meaningful change. If there is a righteous and unimpeachable path to reform, this is it. This is the best path to progress and should continue to be the first path.

However, I am also a student of history. Sometimes society will not react appropriately or ethically to peaceful protest. Sometimes they will call the graceful and elegant Colin Kaepernick a thug, and work to destroy his career rather than acknowledging the issue he is pointing out. So, sometimes force is necessary. Sometimes, unfortunately, there must be collateral damage on the path to progress.

In this context, it is impossible for me to judge BLM and other social justice warriors for their frustration and for doing what they feel an obligation to do to get the nation’s attention and advance the cause. It’s confusing and infuriating that other agitators — from both the left and especially insidiously from the right — are taking advantage of the current situation to advance their own agendas. I can say, though, that I see a distinct difference between righteous acts of property damage (as much as the financial harm to innocents would bother me) that could come from social justice warriors — because sometimes people simply can’t focus until their economic well-being is on the table — and the looting leeches who are taking advantage of this situation to promote their own agendas (and who deserve, if they can be apprehended, to be punished accordingly). Call me a hypocrite if you want, but this is what I believe.

I hope that all the social justice warriors — mostly young people — who are participating in the protests will take care of themselves in this time of pandemic. I hope they wear masks. I hope, when there is an opportunity, that they social distance. They don’t deserve to have to deal with the horrible effects of contracting COVID-19 because they took a brave stand to make our nation better.

I believe that most police officers are good and took the job to serve and protect. I know some of them personally. But I know there are some seriously bad people in our police forces as well, some of them violent sociopaths. I am proud of the brave police officers and their families who are kneeling with the protestors, and publicly speaking out against — and working to root out — their despicable colleagues. I hope the Fraternal Order of Police can stop (or more realistically, be forced to stop) using their resources to defend all police officers blindly and instead join the cause and focus on eliminating the bad apples and providing support and outreach to their noble members.

In the spirit of reaching across divides and bringing people together, I hope that people who are woke to bad cops, but who support good cops, can listen to people who have been harmed by police violence and let them know, first and foremost, that they believe and actively support those victims, before going on to say that they also support good cops. Those who are hurting the most must be supported and healed before we move on to discussing the bigger picture.

And finally, I know that it is impossible for All lives to matter unless Black lives matter; and anyone who doesn’t see that — and can’t affirm that — is either a despicable human being or a fool.

These are just about the hardest imaginable times. But I believe, because of the remarkable actions of so many, that we will — maybe even sooner than we think — emerge from this dark place.

Brian Offutt is a consultant serving media and entertainment companies. He is a former COO of Combs Enterprises and managing director of MediaLink who previously worked at Viacom and Broadway Video. He serves as a board member for Project Healthy Minds and is a former board president of the LGBT Center of NYC.