Drop the Niceties: It's Well Past Time to Get Angry about Racism and Police Violence in America
The murder of two black men by police officers within 48 hours of each other has me reeling. Not only from the brutality of police, but also because this has become our new reality. I’ve held back for too long because I have friends and family in law enforcement and I have friends and family that disagree with me. I say that I don’t want to cause more conflict. Now I feel like all I’ve done is let hate continue in the name of peace.
"In the time it took me to write about one fatal police shooting, another occurred." https://t.co/zXtTatbH1Y— Carrie Brownstein (@Carrie_Rachel) July 7, 2016
I hear so many people say "It's a tragedy, but they [robbed a store/were armed/made threats/were acting "crazy"/were high/were drunk/had a criminal record]." I've even said it before myself. This has to stop. In the words of a good friend who wrote it better than I ever could, none of those things are punishable by death. Theft is wrong, but it's not punishable by death. Being armed, whether or not you're licensed to carry. is not punishable by death. Making threats and acting "crazy" are intimidating, but they are not punishable by death. Being high or drunk may be inadvisable, but they're not punishable by death. Having a criminal record is not punishable by death. These men and the people before them who have been profiled and killed by police did not deserve to die. Whether or not they did something wrong. Doing something wrong is not a death sentence. Committing a criminal act is not a death sentence.
If gun advocates' solution to mass shootings is more guns, why aren't they advising all black people to arm themselves against violent cops?— Lesley Kinzel (@52stations) July 7, 2016
Philando Castile was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and made sure the officer knew about it and the cop still straight out gunned him down. He was murdered with his girlfriend and her four year old daughter in the car with him. The aftermath was livestreamed on Facebook. Alton Sterling was carrying, too. He had a gun in his pocket (that was removed from said pocket after the fact by police). And the point is that it doesn't make a difference. He didn't deserve to be pinned down like an animal and shot point blank.
But we’re supposed to continue with our jobs, go about our lives and pretend like everything is alright and people are not getting murdered in the streets. Short of quitting my job and participating in every possible instance of peaceful protest I can, I feel like nothing I can do or say will make a difference. I lean toward conversation and dialogue, but what change will it bring about when people are getting straight up shot and murdered by the police? I’m sad, yes, but more than anything I’m angry and feel like there is nothing I can do that will make a difference. I want to do something. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to fight. I want to protest. Since I'm a local Clevelander, I was actually debating going downtown and joining a protest during the RNC. As much as I hate crowds, I need to take a stand.
I was talking about joining a protest and someone said something that made me stop. And it also made me more angry because I knew they were right. “Don’t forget you look Mexican.” And that’s when I realized how blind I’ve become to profiling by police. I’ve been profiled by TSA at airports before. That's a scheduling inconvenience at most for me. But the profiling that African Americans and other oppressed minorities face every day is an actual threat to personal safety and that whole “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” thing that we Americans are supposed to hold so dear. I see things as a “tragedy” when someone dies by police brutality and I mourn it, but I don’t feel a personal connection to it. I haven’t experienced and I hope I don’t ever have the chance. But it struck a chord with me because I realized just a tiny sliver of what it is to live in fear because of the way you look and who you are.
THIS HAS TO STOP. We have to work to make this country a safe place for all of its citizens. We cannot continue in silence as our fellow Americans are killed by the very people who are supposed to "serve and protect" us --and by us, I mean ALL of us.
I couldn't say this all in a tweet. My advice to fellow white Americans tonight.#FalconHeightsShooting pic.twitter.com/N3I97iQ6jN— (((Charles Clymer))) (@cmclymer) July 7, 2016
Want to make a change? Here are a few articles about ways we (especially those of us that are not POC and cannot speak with personal experience) can start:
- How to Be a Better Ally: An Open Letter to White Folks (Another Round, Buzzfeed)
- This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter (Washington Post)
- Building from the Ground Up: A Tool Kit for Promoting Justice in Policing (PolicyLink, The Center for Popular Democracy)
- 5 Ways You Can Show Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) - these were written for a particular event, but they're still great
- What Can White People do to Help? (Huffington Post)
- 10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism (Mic)
- Police Encounters and Arrests (Ohio ACLU)