Open Letter to Peace Officers Everywhere: #IAmHumanToo

FERGUSON, MO - OCTOBER 22:  Police face off with demonstrators outside the police station as protests continue in the wake of
FERGUSON, MO - OCTOBER 22: Police face off with demonstrators outside the police station as protests continue in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown's death on October 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Several days of civil unrest followed the August 9 shooting death of Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Today's protest was scheduled to coincide with a day of action planned to take place nationwide to draw attention to police brutality. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Dear Peace Officer,

Please remember why you took your oath to protect and serve. I am tired of seeing myself in the news being beaten and killed on the streets of my neighborhood. I have shed too many tears for my brothers and sisters who have been gunned down by you. I may or may not have different skin color than you, but that does not make me any different. I bleed just the same. I hurt just the same. I have feelings and emotions just the same as you do. I need you to remember that #IAmHumanToo.

You have taken an Oath of Honor to maintain your integrity, your character, and the public trust. But I have lost my trust in you. The nation has lost their trust in you. We've seen too many horrific crimes you have committed, and though you have tried to cover them up, we know what you have done. You have taken the lives of my mother, father, brother and sister. You have gunned them down in stores, pulled them out of cars at traffic stops, beaten them in public, mowed them down with your cruisers without mercy. You have arrested us even when we haven't broken the law, because you lost your ability to uphold the constitution and respect our rights. Though we may become outraged by your actions and 'mouth off', that does not give you the authority to 'light us up' with bullets and take away our life. You cannot shoot us like animals on the street because you don't like the way we speak or look at you. Did your mother and father gun you down every time you talked back to them? Did your wife, husband, brother or sister beat you when you didn't listen to what they said? Please remember that #IAmHumanToo.

In your eyes, I am a minority. You have deemed me an animal. You have deemed me a menace to society. You have already marked me guilty.

I have learned to watch my back when I am walking on the streets. I keep my hands out of my pockets and visible every time I walk into a convenience store. I keep my eyes on the road, always alert, watching for any signs of police in my rear view mirror. I am extra cautious to obey all traffic signals, even though I have been pulled over several times for 'driving while black. I think twice before calling 911 in an emergency. I swallow deeply and breathe heavily every time I am near a police officer, even though I have done nothing wrong. I turn my music down, keep both hands visible on the steering wheel, and my head straight forward whenever a cruiser pulls up next to me. I'm weary of large crowds where police are present, worried that at any moment an attack may be launched against us. I automatically go into 'fight or flight' mode when I hear sirens go by. I avoid being on streets where I know police stations are present. I have lost my faith in the law, and do not trust the very officers who are patrolling my street to protect and serve me.

Dear Peace Officer, do you remember why you took your oath? Do you recall the moment you decided to enroll in the Police Academy and become a police officer? Do you understand why you are committed to uphold the law and never betray your badge? Do you know why you put your life on the line every single day to protect lives, defend civil liberties, and secure the safety of fellow citizens? When did you decide not to do that for me? Why am I exempt? #IAmHumanToo

I've watched you beat down people that look like me. My soul grows weary every time I see another news story about a police officer shooting an unarmed person. You've taken to shooting first, and asking questions later. You are reckless. You are the menace to society. You don't know the difference between a real gun being shot at you, and an empty hand being pulled out of a pocket. You fire at us anyway. You feel threatened by a toy gun, a chocolate candy bar, or a cell phone. You shoot to kill. Even if I carried a knife for protection, there are plenty of ways to disarm me peacefully. Didn't they teach you that in the Academy? You shoot to kill. I may curse at you, and become outraged by your actions, and I may even resist arrest, but do not slam my head into the concrete floor, kick me with your boots, or manhandle me in such a way that you break my wrists and draw blood. You've forgotten that part in your oath where you are sworn to 'be accountable for your actions.' You lose your temper, you make threats, you draw your gun, you shoot to kill. I feel like a hunted animal but #IAmHumanToo.

What is it going to take for you to stop killing me? What is it going to take for you to uphold the Oath of Honor you took? What's it going to take for you to treat me like a human? What's it going to take for you to restore my faith in you? What's it going to take for you to see me as a person worthy of you risking your life to protect and serve me? Do I matter to you?

My family grieves for me. You took my life because of the color of my skin. You took my life because you thought I stole something. You took my life because I didn't put my hands up fast enough. You took my life because you raided the wrong house. You took my life because I stood up for myself. You took my life because I reminded you that you are breaking the law. You took my life because I didn't put out a cigarette. You took my life because I ran away in fear. You took my life because I was walking down the street. You took my life because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You took my life because you didn't like the way I looked at you. You took my life because you had a bad day. You took my life because you are racist. You took my life because you are a murderer. My family grieves for me.

Dear Peace Officer, please hear my plea and the plea of the nation. Will you stop killing me? Will you protect and serve me now? #IAmHumanToo.

Sincerely,

Lisa Mae Brunson
Activist, Writer, Social Innovator