NOTE: I originally posted this piece on Boldaslove.us, but thought it could serve as a useful perspective to the readers here.
Honestly, I have no idea.
We are truly enmeshed in the Chinese curse of living in interesting times. One on hand, in the words of the Hamilton song, “How lucky we are to be alive right now.” Look: We live in a world where we can talk to people on the other side of the planet with ease. We’ve mapped the human genome. We carry supercomputers in our pockets and it’s no big deal. Almost any song you want is a stream away. And self-driving cars? Those used to be cool things in sci-fi movies, but not anymore. They’re still buggy, but they’re here.
At the same time, economic and social inequality is real. The divide between the haves and have-nots never seemed greater. Discontent is real. It’s what’s at the core of the appeal of both Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and the people who voted in favor of Brexit. Regular people feel like they’ve gotten a raw deal and, more importantly, there’s no path back.
Black pain is real, too. Unless you’re hiding under a rock, you know that two more black men were killed by police this week. Philando Caliste (above left) was reaching for his ID. Alton Sterling was selling CDs. There’s video of both men being killed by police. Will there be any accountability? History suggests that the answer is no.
Our collective pain comes from knowing that any encounter a black person has with police (or in some cases, random white people) could be our last. This is via Crillmatic:
What makes it worse is that there’s never any accountability. That means, it’s highly likely that if a cop kills me (because that could happen) they’re very likely to skate. All this makes me fear less for myself than, say, for my 16-year-old son. Thanks, Rich Levychin for this.
But that level of anxiety isn’t only localized to him. There’s a general worry that extends to family, friends and neighbors. And we’ve got no indication that police will treat black women better. And, as ____ put it, these repeated images of black people being killed by police amount to a kind of political terrorism. I agree with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson: Too many white people just don’t get it. Some do, but not nearly enough.
And then, we’ve got these five police officers in Dallas who were just killed. First, for those of you who don’t know me, this graphic by Nyle Fort perfectly sums up where I’m coming from:
Regrettably, something like Dallas was going to happen. How could you think otherwise? Years of living in an arguably racist society, police misconduct, stop-and-frisk and numerous extra-judicial killings have finally pushed someone (the Times cites the shooter as “mentally unstable”) to take murderous action, especially given the history that cops are never held accountable for their actions. We’ve tried throughout the years to seek legal means of redress, but the culture of police departments—yes, there are exceptions—hasn’t changed substantially enough. Black people are still dying at the hands of people whose job it is to serve and protect.
I suspect cops feel confident that they can get away with things like this. After all, it’s usually their word against a dead person’s. Do they way around feeling untouchable? Maybe after Dallas they’ll be less inclined to do so.
But taking up arms against police isn’t a long-term solution. They’re better funded and more militarized than ever. These are facts. It’s a bigger and more complex problem than that, something President Obama alluded to in his remarks in the aftermath of the recent killings of Sterling and Caliste :
People of good will can do better. And doing better involves not just addressing potential bias in the criminal justice system. It’s recognizing that too often we are asking police to man the barricades in communities that have been forgotten by all of us for way too long in terms of sub-standard schools and inadequate jobs and a lack of opportunity.
There are issues systemic and institutional at work here, and it’s not the job of cops to solve them. And I think it’s appropriate to point out #NotAllCops.
But I’ll tell you this: If you sign up to be a cop, you’re signing up for a stressful job. More importantly, you’re being endowed by the State with the right to use lethal force when you deem necessary. That means your behavior has to always be held to a higher standard. Period. So we can’t use the “cops have a tough job” line of reasoning to justify uses of excessive force. Ever. If you can’t handle that, then don’t be a cop. Generally speaking, these are facts, as pointed out by Jesse Williams:
I’m trying to stay optimistic. Once again, I’m hoping there will be justice for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I’m encouraged that some whites are waking up and really trying to be allies in this long-term struggle. I’m also trying not to laugh at friends who still come up with some form of “All Lives Matter” or that there shouldn’t be a rush to judgement, or “wait til we know all the facts.” The reality for me and for every other black father out there is that we have to send our sons and daughters out into these streets. Between regular people feeling like the American dream is completely out of reach–and therefore getting closer to taking desperate measures–and cops with little to no accountability, it makes for dangerous times for us all. We’re all way less safe than we should be and, I believe, that applies double or triple to black families.
What really needs to happen now? This is a good first step (via Afropunk):
So, really, what’s next? Where do we go from here? We’ll see.