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“Racism Isn’t Getting Worse, It’s Getting Filmed” ~ Will Smith
As a black mom, the very first thing I taught my children when they were old enough to be on the street alone was how to interact with police officers.
They were told to move slowly, keep your mouth shut and your hands in plain view. We all teach our children this, yet the national media always seems to blame the victim of police brutality for their own deaths.
I was invited to share my scattered thoughts on the brutality of the past few weeks with Elephant Readers. Please bear with me; I am doing my best.
This was my comment to Elephant’s Free Community Retreat with Waylon Lewis on Friday, May 29, 2020:
“It’s been a brutal week. I am a 63-year-old black mom and I fear for my children daily. They are both in their 30’s, both are still working. While I try not to live in fear, this hate and ignorance MUST END!”
I had typed what I was feeling, and the overwhelming support brought the tears I’d been fighting back all week.
Sometimes, it takes a community to uplift and heal each of us.
I was grateful for the support that I received. But as I said in sharing that gratitude with the community, “We’ve been given an opportunity to do better and be better.”
Because while I’m grateful for the support, I am also angry, hurt, and overwhelmed by the violence visited on my community during a national pandemic—a pandemic that impacts black and brown folks more severely with increased dire consequences. So, we have COVID-19 and some white folks who feel it is their right to murder black people without consequence or fear of justice of any kind.
George Floyd was the latest in what has been a truly devastating May. Just this month we saw Ahmaud Arbery, hunted like prey, recorded, and killed without repercussion in Georgia. Nothing was done until the video went viral.
Then there was the EMT, Breonna Taylor, whose home was invaded by police. She and her boyfriend did everything right. The officers involved did everything wrong. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, called 911 to report their home was being burglarized. As the officers breached the door, he fired his registered gun, which was when the police barged into their home. They even found bullets in other apartments. After police murdered Breonna Taylor, Kenneth Walker was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
To be clear, the police invaded the wrong apartment at the wrong address. The suspect they were looking for was already in police custody. To add to the chaos, they executed a no-knock warrant. If you or I kicked in the wrong (or right) door, it would be considered breaking and entering at the least. While Kenneth Walker’s charges have been dropped, to date, nothing has been done to the incompetent, murderous officers involved.
Both of these instances occurred months ago, with no action by local authorities. Had the video for Ahmad Arbery not existed, we wouldn’t even know how he had been killed.
Moving on to this week, two more instances of white privilege reared their ugly heads. Christian Cooper, a bird watcher in Central Park, asked Amy Cooper (not related) to leash her dog. They were in a part of Central Park called The Bramble where dogs are required to be leashed. This escalated to a screaming 911 call by Amy Cooper, in which she claimed she was being attacked by an “African American man.”
Let it be made clear: this was an invitation for cops to commit murder. We can clearly see she is nowhere near Christian Cooper, yet she continued with her unabated lying. She has since offered an apology.
To add to this horror, we saw a uniformed police officer casually kneeling on the neck of George Floyd. We can hear George Floyd and onlookers begging the officer to get up because he could not breathe.
All of them were ignored.
What we couldn’t see in the original tape was the other three, yes three officers, also kneeling on George Floyd. What a horrible way to die—at the hands of those whose job is protect and serve. We haven’t seen Officer Friendly in our communities in decades. What we have is a version of Officer Deadly, protected by power, privilege, and uniforms of blue.
This needs to stop. The carnage must end.
Let me head off the whataboutisms of black-on-black crime: the reason black-on-black (retaliation) crime is so prevalent is because the black community do not trust the police. At this point, every police department is suspect. Trust must be earned. The way citizens are treated determines how or if a police officer will be trusted.
Changes must be made, and the citizens who pay the salaries of officers must have a say in how those officers conduct themselves in their towns, cities, and communities. Without this, police departments are occupiers, not public servants.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice, everywhere.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.