I was talking to my husband last night after we heard the news about the recent police shooting. We were discussing how hard it is to be a black person in the states right now; we thought it was hard to be brown. Living in Arizona all of his life, my husband has had more than his fair share of racial profiling. In fact, I had never felt self-conscious of my skin color or ethnicity based on association until I moved to Arizona.
I don’t know what it feels like to walk out of my house and fear for my life because of the color of my skin. That might sound dramatic but I don’t think it’s that far from reality. If I place myself in the shoes of a black male, I would fear for my life should I encounter a police officer because current interactions are resulting in death at an alarming rate. In most instances, no crime was even committed nor behavior warranted the course of action taken by officers. Yet the victims are automatically villanized, scrutinized, and their humanity is minimized. People want to argue that if “they” just did as the police command, if “they” just listened, if “they” just didn’t put themselves in that situation in the first place…
I honestly can’t see how anyone can justify this recent shooting. The video footage shows a man with his hands up, not being irrational, not being aggressive, not charging at officers, just walking with his hands up and he’s shot. From what I understand, his car stalled and yet somehow that situation lead to his death. Now details are emerging suggesting that he may have had contraband in his vehicle. Even if that’s the case, based on the video footage of a man following officer’s commands and four officers surrounding him with guns drawn did that justify him being killed? Could they possibly have known that at the time and is that the penalty?
As a mixed race female in my early 30’s, never in my wildest nightmares could I imagine that scenario leading to four officers showing up with guns pointed at me. I’d expect them to show up, assess the situation, and help me figure out how to move my vehicle so it’s no longer obstructing traffic. How that didn’t happen for Terence I’m not sure. I watched the helicopter footage of the incident and I was floored when I heard the commentary. Somehow someone that was flying above in a helicopter saw a large black male following police commands and stated: “it’s time for a taser I think” as well as “that looks like a bad dude too; looks like he could be on something”. That alone gave me so much insight into the perspective of those involved when situations end the way this one did.
I’m sure thousands of people are stopped by officers all over the country every day and they are able to go on about their day. What’s disturbing is the rate at which black males aren’t always able to. Personally not only is this scenario disturbing but what also bothers me is the people that are so adamant that there isn’t a problem. The people that can’t understand why peaceful protests are formed, or why people have to use hashtags with shock value to bring awareness to this issue, the ones that are outraged when a football player doesn’t stand for the national anthem but not equally as enraged when a father of four doesn’t make it home for dinner because he was killed, or that a man is shot in front of his girlfriend and her daughter for following officer’s commands and pulling out his wallet, or shot but luckily not killed when trying to keep a patient safe that isn’t able to understand a situation.
You see, I thought we had it bad being brown in a community where it was automatically assumed you were poor, didn’t speak English, you were uneducated, you cooked, cleaned, did landscape or construction for a living, and you had at least four kids. Now I realize that’s a luxury, at least those assumptions don’t put my life at risk. At least I was able to open my mouth and disprove them with the lack of accent they expected. At least I didn’t have to fear for my life or that of my husband’s every time he left for work.
I know this is a place I generally don’t take my writing or topics on my blog but I can’t sit back and observe the madness going around and not say anything. For those that still think racism doesn’t exist today, that’s because you aren’t on the receiving end of it. The more things change, the more they stay the same. On a personal level, I’m shocked to see how many of my so-called friends really feel. I’ve sat back over the past year and been astounded by what’s been revealed by people I thought I knew. They’ve shared, liked, commented, and promoted disgusting, disgraceful, and downright bigoted pieces online. I’ve cried reading hate filled comments made by strangers from the comfort of their online safety distance. Words so foul, vile, and hateful that I wish my eyes could unsee and my mind didn’t know existed. Things people have said aimed at children of color; things that should never be said or wished upon any living being much less an innocent child.
So yes, today I’m taking my writing there because Thursdays are about thought-provoking topics. Most of the time they are posts that empower, but this topic was created as a way to bring awareness. As much as I’d rather keep my beautiful positive blog away from negativity and controversy, as much as I’d like to sit back and wish this all away, I just couldn’t do it. My eyes can’t unsee the video I watched of a man that didn’t get to go home to his family on his drive home from community college. My heart won’t stop aching for a woman I don’t know but feel nothing but sorrow for the twin brother she lost. As a mother, wife, and human being I can’t pretend that I don’t see the injustice that’s occurring to families much like my own.
I can’t help but think there needs to be better training. How can people be violent, irrational, and uncontrollable during police interactions and still be alive to tell about it while others aren’t even committing a crime or being uncooperative and don’t make it through the police encounter? There needs to be accountability. This isn’t the first police shooting that has been recorded. This isn’t the first black man to be killed by someone holding a badge. Yet somehow the officers are able to stand behind their blue wall of brotherhood and wait out the media attention to move on with their lives. They’re investigated by internal organizations that find them free of fault and rarely even charged with a crime. I have the utmost respect for law enforcement with that being said, I also have the utmost respect for human life. I watched the press conference and it was stated that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I’m sure many in the black community wish the same were true for them, that they didn’t have to prove their innocence to a higher degree than someone in the same situation with a lighter skin pigmentation.
I know people are going to try to excuse, justify, and turn this around. There will always be people that say “race isn’t a factor” but the reality is it’s a huge factor. People are constantly making judgments based on a myriad of factors and appearance including skin color is among them. In regular situations, the consequences of those judgements might not have repercussions as severe as the ones officers do. They are faced with decisions that could result in life and death daily, including their own. Injustice occurs when their actions aren’t in line with the scenario and aren’t held accountable for it. If I were a black man in America right now, I could only hope to be a famous one because that would be a slim assurance that whatever split decision or judgement made would be in my favor.
My deepest condolences to the family of Terence Crutcher and all of those taken away too soon by officers that forgot that protect and serve applies to all.