Thursday, July 7, 2016

136 and Counting

I wish I could predict Mr. Philando Castile will be the last Black man to be killed senselessly by a cop.

I wish I could wake up and find it all to have been a really bad dream.

I wish I could erase the pain and horror the survivors of these victims of murder have had to endure.

With tears in my eyes, I wish there wasn't a website where I could pull up the names of all those killed by police since 2013.

As of this writing, 136 such killings have taken place in the great nation of America since January 1, 2016. What are we, AMERICANS of color to do? Independence Day was celebrated by many less than a week ago. Is this what freedom looks like? Independence?

Offering up prayers for those lost and their families they left behind aren't helping. Protests and demonstrations haven't achieved a moratorium on the genocide of people who look like me.

In this a year in which we will elect a new President, why are the candidates silent on this plague? As they go out and press the flesh and vey for our votes, they are mute. As they ignore this issue, matters will only get worse no matter which of the two ends up in the White House. This is happening all across the nation. It is a national problem.

I don't want to hear:

"Be respectful of the police."
"Do as they ask."
"Just answer their questions."

Why not add "Don't even look at them"?

None of that matters. We Black and Brown people do not have the privilege of the benefit of being respectful, of obeying a policeman's request, of doing as they ask or sometimes even given the opportunity to answer their questions. We are guilty without even opening our mouths.


These three words are emblazoned on every police vehicle in New York City, where about half of the people killed in New York State were killed in the Big Apple as listed on the above mentioned website.

What happened? Did they forget their own missions statement splayed across the doors of their police vehicles?

I get it. I know there are some good cops. I know some, but the overwhelming feeling felt by people of color is one of fear of encountering a police officer who is too willing to shoot without ample warning. I also understand that sometimes force is necessary so that the officers can go home to their families. Was this type of force really necessary in the Castile and Sterling shootings though? More and more I'm seeing incidents where a victim is defenseless.  i.e. He can't breathe He's twelve years old. She's smoking a cigarette in her own car. He's selling CD's. His car has a busted tail light.

What are we all to do?

We take steps toward true freedom and independence. That's what we do. It seems to me that we have forgotten Martin Luther King's vision. As has been suggested by many, we can start on social media. 

Stop sharing fight videos. They show a lack of respect for ourselves and when we do that, how can you expect our oppressors to find a reason to respect us? What do you think they are saying to themselves? The people in uniform, the people with the guns in their holsters see those videos, they see us finding enjoyment in disrespecting ourselves and think:

"Look! Why shouldn't we shoot and kill them? They're killing and hurting one another anyway!"

Why not share photos of men of color who are educated, who take care of their families and children, who respect their mothers and the elderly? Share stories of people of color who mentor our youth. Single mothers of children of color whose fathers look like these men being killed: How about you applaud the good things your child's father does even if it is just once in a while -- even if you're not the best of friends? This not only sends a positive message to your child, but also helps in shining a much needed positive light on our men of color. If he's not in your child's life, don't talk about it. Talk about the positive things you are doing with your child for women of color are not immune to this madness. Remember Sandra Bland?

We can talk with our white friends and acquaintances who don't have a clue in a respectful manner and teach them about how it feels to constantly have this happen in our communities. Explain to them how parents of color have to sit down with our children to have "the talk" -- which, by the way, isn't about the birds and the bees.

How about other officers and the families of police officers who help to create an "us vs. them" environment when they remain silent in light of such events? Again, I stress: Not all police officers are the same but to hide behind that blue wall of silence is extremely disrespectful to the families of these victims. I have friends and family members married to very good police officers who I admire and respect. But I believe they too see my frustrated and angry postings on my social media pages and don't say a word of comfort to me. It makes me as uncomfortable as I suspect they are.

But I am compelled to express my feelings, my fears just as they are when a police officer is shot. We each have a right to do so. But here's the difference: A police officer is rarely indicted and never prosecuted and convicted. However, if it were to happen the other way around, there usually is a conviction pretty quickly. Don't the same laws apply in both sets of circumstances? Apparently not.

So, how do we make changes? I have shared ideas for my people, but the upper echelon at these police departments have to do their part as well.

How about we start with the psychological assessments every police officer has to take? Maybe they need to be more stringent. Maybe delving deeper into the backgrounds of recruits will uncover some of these violent tendencies.

What if we were to go back to old school policing? i.e. Beat cops. When I was growing up in New York City's East Harlem in the 60's, we had a beat cop who knew everyone in the neighborhood. His name was Danny Sepulveda. I hope he is well...

I think that if a cop knows the people he is policing, he'll soon develop a sense of caring for them and be less apt to turn to violence when scared.

Let's talk about soon to be retired law enforcement personnel. Oftentimes, you have these young recruits who are watching videos of young people of color fighting and hurting each other as well as distorted news reports the same as we are. I think they're already scared and they may be trigger happy. I don't know if experienced police officers are paired with new recruits any more. I have often seen pairs of new recruits patrolling, so I am not sure how much time new recruits spend with more experienced officers. Maybe if we utilized older police officers and have them mentor the new recruits for, I don't know, maybe two years -- this would serve as a great way for seasoned, and hopefully, level-headed police officers to pass the baton, so to speak.

Somehow, some way we have to end these killings. I am angry. I am frustrated and frankly, these incidents are scary.

Why fear those who are supposed to serve and protect us? How must we look in the eyes of the rest of the world? This powerful nation killing its own people.  It's shameful.

This is just the way I feel.