What do we do when the people who are meant to protect and serve us are killing people who look like us? Officers are murdering people who could be our mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, friend or even us with little to no repercussions. What is happening, why is this happening and what can we do?
Alton Sterling, a 37 year old black man, was tackled and shot while being pinned down by two police officers. He was armed, but as the video of his death shows he was not bothering anyone or attempting to fire his weapon. Sterling was taken down like an animal.
Philando Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor, was killed by a police officer as he was allegedly reaching for his license and registration. They were pulled over for a broken tail light. The aftermath of the shooting was filmed by Castile’s girlfriend showing the officer still aiming the gun at Castile, blaming him for making him shoot, while he laid there dying.
A range of emotions washed over me as I was constantly bombarded with images of slain black men at the hands of the police. I was wounded, exhausted, infuriated and frightened. I cried. I’ve been pulled over many times and this could have easily been me or someone I love. The storyline is always the same just a different name. The police continue to senselessly take the lives of people’s brother, sister, mother, father, cousin and friend. It doesn’t matter if our pants are sagging, we’re college educated, or a person in power. Black people are being taken out for nothing as if they are not human. We are being told to be peaceful and take the abuse with a smile on our face and be forgiving. We deserve to be treated like human beings.
These incidents give a little insight on the racial disparities in America. For example, how black people and other people of color are being sent to jail and killed for non-violent offenses or no crime at all. Contrarily, white people are given the benefit of the doubt and generally get lighter sentences and more importantly they get to LIVE.
Many Americans will look at what’s happening and not care. It’s not happening to them or people that look like them so they don’t look past the surface. Even with clear evidence that black and brown people are killed whether they really pose a threat or not they can’t seem to believe –or refuse to believe- that the world is as racist and cruel as it is. Then they would have to acknowledge that they have some type of privilege. So they say things like:
“Well maybe if they complied they wouldn’t be dead.”
“We don’t know all the facts, we should wait until we make any decisions.”
“What about black on black crime?”
Or my favorite, “ALL LIVES MATTER!”
These statements conveniently ignore the targeting of black and brown lives just because of the color their skin. It’s like having two houses right next two each other and one is burning. The people who live in the burning house try to get everyone to help them get water to put the fire out, but everyone tells them they are being selfish, ignoring that their house is burning. Why should they get water for their house and not everyone else’s? ALL HOUSES MATTER. See how ridiculous that sounds? That’s exactly how people who say All Lives Matter sound. There is a difference between focus and exclusion. Black Lives Matter is not excluding other lives or saying black lives matter more. Black people are receiving clear messages that their lives are less important. The Black Lives Matter movement was created to bring focus on the pointless killing of our people.
Even with new technology, videos and evidence that black people are being treated unjustly there is little chance the officers will receive any punishment. They kill black people and then the media attempts to assassinate the victim’s character afterwards in order to keep people from sympathizing. This systematic lack of accountability is what’s terrifying. We could be killed for no reason and in everyone’s eyes it would still be our fault. This has many black people feeling helpless.
The million dollar question is, what can we do about it? I want for us to strive to have thriving black communities where we have our own stores, banks and we can police ourselves. I don’t want to live in a place where the people I depend on protecting and serving me are afraid of me and see me as some kind of monster. How can we get to the point of being self-sufficient?
1. Be more active in the black community. We can do this by using what we know and going into our communities and educating others through volunteering, mentoring or tutoring. This can range from helping a kid academically or providing communities with financial information and resources. There are a lot of uninformed people in the black community. Not because we lack the capacity to learn this information, but because of lack of resources. We can’t expect anyone to give us this information, we have to connect with and help each other.
2. Support black businesses. The fact that black people spend over a trillion dollars a year and only 3% goes towards black businesses is unacceptable. We should be more active in seeking out, supporting and even starting our own businesses.
3. Donate. Even if you do not have the time to spend in the communities you can contribute monetarily to keep helpful programs running.
4. Hold people accountable. We need to hold our people accountable to higher expectations. We are more than capable of achieving greatness and should be treated as such.
5. Get involved in politics. Get to know what’s going on politically in your community. Attend city meetings. Hold politicians accountable for making changes in the community.
Would you add anything to the list? If you don’t have anything to add, do you have any ideas on how we can implement the suggestions on the list?