Before anyone tries to do it or say it, let me lead off with this: I don’t want to read any comments about how “all lives matter.” People making that statement are completely missing the point. It’s like someone telling you that they just got in a car crash that totaled their car, and you say, “Thank goodness my car wasn’t damaged today. All cars are expensive.” Or maybe “It’s not just your car. Lots of cars get in accidents everyday.” Tone deaf. It’s like telling someone dying from cancer “I sure am glad *I* don’t have cancer. Cancer is bad for everyone.” Or maybe, “Cancer kills all sorts of people. Not just you.”
There’s a time and a place for statistics or debate, but when someone’s actively hurting in front of you, that isn’t the time and that isn’t the place.
Yesterday had another one-two punch of police shootings where black men were killed. If you haven’t seen them, you should, despite how graphic they are. First, there was a man selling CDs outside a convenience store in Louisiana. There are two different videos of this shooting, and they both show the same thing: two police officers had the suspect on the ground. One of them yells out that the suspect has a gun. The other draws his gun, aims it pretty much point blank on the suspect, warns him not to move, and then shoots him multiple times.
In the second, the video starts right after the shooting. A man and his girlfriend had been pulled over for a busted taillight. From the report we get in the video, the driver was asked to produce his license. The driver started to let the officer know that he was carrying a licensed firearm, and the officer shot the driver four times.
In both instances, the victims are black men. The police are white. I’m at a loss for words and struggling to see how anyone could view these shootings as anything other than criminal. I suppose one might try to argue in the case of the second that we don’t actually see events as they happen, just the aftermath of them. (But even then, the officer involved seems trying to convince himself that he was justified. But maybe I’m reading too much into his voice.)
In the first, however? There’s no defense for that. Two trained officers practically sitting on top of a man, his arms pinned to the ground, and they were forced to shoot him?
“He shouldn’t have struggled,” someone might say. “He should have just done what the police officer told him to.”
Yeah. Well, that’s kind of the point. In the second video, we see what happens when a man tries to do what the officer tells him to. Shot if you do. Shot if you don’t.
I know police officers. I’m related to a few. They aren’t bad people and don’t deserve to be typecast. But there are most definitely bad people who are police officers. That badge doesn’t make them saints. And unfortunately, there are entire police departments that seem to have struggles with simple things like “treat the people you’re sworn to protect fairly.” And when egregious cases end up with the police officers being found not guilty?
Again. Words fail.
When you look at statistics and compare them to other countries, it’s so dismaying. In the US, police shot and killed more people in 24 days than England and Wales shot and killed in 24 years. Look at this site. The police have killed 561 people in this country this year. So far. And while the majority of people killed are white, proportionately speaking, most of them are people of color. You’re much more likely to be shot and killed by police if your skin is any color other than white.
This country has let violence get out of control. Violence breeds violence. I don’t believe this is all new. I believe our awareness of it is new, because so many people have video cameras with them at all times now. It was much easier to dismiss it when we didn’t have to see it all in full color, right before our eyes.
There are things we can do. We can demand change, Demand consequences. Support and comfort people who are upset and affected by this. You can support the police and still be appalled and shocked at the behavior of these officers. I’d like to think my police family and friends are just as disappointed and saddened by what’s happening as I am.
Raise awareness. Let people know this exists. Don’t sweep it under the rug until the next time it happens.