Another day and more black lives lost at the hands of police officers in our great nation, and now the assassination of police officers in Dallas has made the situation more tense, more problematic, and sadly overwhelming as another mass shooting unfolds. First, we heard of Alton Sterling in Louisiana gunned down at the closest range possible, while pinned by officers, then hours later in Minnesota, we hear of Philando Castile shot while sitting in a car, reaching for his identification with his girlfriend beside him and her 4-year-old daughter in the backseat. Before we could even process the bloodshed from one incident, there is another. Think about how many times this happens without video. We are shocked by the loss of life, one after the other, and their horrific videos on display, going viral.
"Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and passenger were white? I don't think it would've. So I'm forced to confront, and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront, that this kind of racism exists." Sobering words by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton at a press conference on the shooting of Philando Castile. And does the fact that a white governor is saying this affect you differently than the many people of color who have been saying this through agony and tears for years?
Before we are stunned into numb stagnation, what do we do next? How do we stop this? More protests, investigations by the Department of Justice, more grand jury hearings that lead to no convictions. What needs to happen, and how many times do videos of police sanctioned murder need to be shared before it finally sinks in that we need to have police sanctioned policy change or police sanctioned policing of the police? How many times does your newsfeed need to be flooded with the recorded deaths of friends, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, children, human beings before people pause to think before shouting, "all lives matter," or other statements that diminish the loss of life. There are good cops, and there are bad cops. Even good cops can sometimes make mistakes, but what we are seeing in these videos are beyond simple mistakes and represent institutionalized lapses in judgment, and the institutionalized systemic killing of black lives. Let me also be clear, this in no way warrants or justifies the acts of cowardice that targeted the police who were injured and lost their lives in Dallas.
The sad reality is, I not only fear, but know there will be more deaths. Speak up, do something. Before you tell me what Jesse Williams said at the BET awards was racist (it most certainly wasn't), or that Black Lives Matter devalues the lives of others (it most certainly doesn't); tell me what you are doing to make a change. Tell me what you're doing to stop the nationwide epidemic that is racism, because if you don't have an answer to that, your inaction devalues all of our lives, including your own. It's going to take leadership of all types. How can there be such blindspots in some communities, while these glaring atrocities exist in plain view for everyone else? This is what happens when rhetoric and political policy divides us.
Amnesty International, the global organization focused on protecting human rights and fighting injustice around the world, has focused on the abuses of the rampant police brutality in the States. This is nothing new, but recommendations from their report on police use of lethal force last year, "Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force" in the United States states this: "What is urgently needed is a nationwide review and reform of existing laws, policies, training and practices on police use of lethal force, as well as a thorough review and reform of oversight and accountability mechanisms. As this demonstrates, one of the steps that needs to be taken is for state laws to be thoroughly reformed or, in some cases, replaced with new laws to ensure that police are not permitted to use lethal force except where it is necessary to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury."
Beyond recommendations and demands are specific policy reforms, laws and legislators that recognize this as a problem and who have the courage and support to act.
From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's powerful dissent in Utah v. Strieff recently: "We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are 'isolated.' They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but."
There is hope. The collective newsfeed of America is changing, and the responses of outrage are becoming more universal. It's not just my friends of color, but even some of my less liberal friends are speaking up, and I feel that is happening all across social media. This momentum can't be lost. This change can't be ignored. This requires the vigilance and voices of many, not just terrorized communities. This affects us ALL. I think one of the most inspiring things about what Jesse Williams keeps saying about the Black Lives Matter movement is that he is truly shaping himself into a powerful, thoughtful, and effective voice and leader, and that's what this changing political climate needs. That's what our country needs to honestly talk about race and tackle this epidemic of police brutality and murder. So speak up, step up!
It's frustrating especially in the current political climate with Donald Trump spewing hate, racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-semitism, homophobia and every possible horrible thing a politician could say to run his campaign into the ground, yet continues to prevail in the presence of Republican complacency. Our country is in the midst of some heinous political theater and the landscape is about to explode. I hope we're on the brink of a revolution, but I'm scared our revolution might not be the one that rises. Inaction now makes one an accomplice to what happens next, whether it's more loss of black life, a Trump presidency, or whatever disastrous BREXIT equivalent that might be coming our way.
Black lives matter, and black votes matter too! All cops aren't bad, but neither are all people of color pulled over and profiled by the police, and while it should be obvious that their murder is an extreme that requires change, so too does the policy that prevents convictions and consequences from befalling cops who are not doing their job, especially when a supposed routine encounter rapidly escalates and ends in death.
For those in the black community who say they have nothing left, they're exhausted, they're tired, they're speechless -- I'm gonna give you a reminder, and let others in on our little secret, because we are more than magic, we are REAL. We come from generations of strong people, kings, queens, innovators, leaders, storytellers, POWERFUL PEOPLE, and we have endured past atrocities that are woven into the genetic workings and molecular crosslinks of our DNA, but so is our collective greatness, and still we rise. This will not end us. We will end it, and the loss of life has to stop!
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