Another Bad Day in America: My response to the recent events of police brutality in the United States

Today I watched 4 minutes and 30 seconds of black man after black child after black man dying at the hands of police officers, men who were hired (and presumably trained) to protect and serve. 
 
It is clearer than ever that our country has a huge problem with racism both on the institutional and personal level. Institutional racism, however, is what protects, permits, and propagates these tragedies and is, arguably, more dangerous. On a good day, institutional racism leads to gratuitous arrests. On a bad day, institutional racism leads to unwarranted deaths– the murder of innocent Americans. 

We’ve had a lot of bad days in America.

 
While police brutality may be a “black issue,” it is not an ONLY black issue. We must stand together. While my skin may be fair, I refuse to remain silent while innocent Americans are dying.
 
Regardless of how you personally view these events from a racial perspective, it is absolutely evident that our police force needs better recruitment and better training. It is evident that the men we are sending out on the streets armed with a uniform, a badge, and a gun are not equipped to handle confrontations, even with non-violent citizens. 

Here are a few principles I suggest we include in training materials moving forward.

 
Just because you have a gun, does not mean you get to shoot it if your suspect (of a traffic violation) begins to run.
 
Just because you have a gun, does not mean you get to shoot it if the black man in front of you is holding a screwdriver.
 

Just because you have a gun, does not mean you get to shoot it, especially if you’re already constraining a man face down on the ground with the weight of 2+ grown men, presumably trained at detaining suspects, on top of him.

Just because you have a gun, does not mean you get to shoot it when a 12 year old boy is carrying a pellet gun through a park, or another child is carrying a bb gun.

Just because you have a gun,  does not mean you get to shoot it when a man of color, a legal gun owner, reaches for his wallet.

Just because you have a gun and you get a little scared, does not mean you get to shoot it.

Guns should be an absolute last resort for police officers. This concept seems easily understood and widely accepted when it comes to confrontations with white offenders/suspects. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (many of you still insist it can’t be racism– not in 2016!), the standard too often does not hold true during encounters with black men.

 

beg law enforcement to reevaluate the screening process, the training, and the culture that currently exists in our police departments. I beg current law enforcement officers — the “good cops” — to report ill behavior from your fellow servicemen before they get a chance to brutalize someone. If you don’t, you’re only compromising your own ability to serve and protect. To do your job, the community must trust and value your service. Without mutual respect and dignity, we will never have peace.

And finally, I beg my friends, my family, my peers, and even strangers to speak out, stand up, and support each other. Silence cannot ignite change. Silence only excuses the status quo.

**It would be irresponsible for me to finish this statement without acknowledging the violence against police officers last night in Dallas. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. It should go without saying, but my support of #BlackLivesMatter does not equate to a hatred for police officers. The fact that I value black lives, does not take away from the value I assign to the lives of any other race. Violence, at the hands of anyone, is not the answer.

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