Are police doing what we want to but can't?
This article was written a day before the Dallas police killings, a human tragedy by a homegrown terrorist. What is noteworthy is that Dallas has one of the better police departments in the nation as their Chief believes in community policing. Dallas residents now trust their police department under the leadership of Chief David Brown. Our thought are with all afflicted by the inhumane violence this week.
Police continue to kill people of color at disproportionate levels because they are implicitly the alter ego of the country with the power to execute. All Americans aren't racists just like all police officers aren't racist. The problem is for those are, they have the authority to act on their prejudice.
Alton Sterling, a black man in Baton Rouge, was gunned down in cold blood by police officers. Several videos show that Sterling was neither clearly a threat nor was he threatening. Sterling had one problem. He was a black man in a police altercation that should not have occurred.
Sterling was selling CDs as he has for a long time. A 911 caller reported that Sterling had a gun in his pocket that he brandished when approach by the 911 caller. Baton Rouge cops Blane Salamoni, and Howie Lake responded to the call in front of Abdullah Muflahi's Triple S Food Mart.
Soon after the police body slammed Sterling to the ground. From the video, it was evident both officers had Sterling pinned down. One can hear one officer shout ‘gun.’ Given the visible action in the video, it is clear that the shout was for the sake of legal protection for the subsequent shooting.
Some will say the cops feared for their lives because Sterling allegedly had a gun. Ironically, Louisiana is a lenient open-carry state. Open-carry makes police officer duties more complicated to discern friend from foe. To the police, a black man with a gun is a foe. Our laws are supposedly color blind. The converse is not true when executing many of our laws.
And then the day after the killing of Alton Sterling, another unhinged police officer in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, killed Philando Castile, an innocent black man. According to Castile's fiance, Castile had a concealed weapons permit. He disclosed that to the cop. The police officer asked him for his ID and then shot him as he was in the process of getting his ID. This incident is not unlike the incident in South Carolina where an out of control officer shot up Levar Jones, a black man complying with his request to get his license.
Philando Castile was a law-abiding citizen going about his business. But again he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong hue.
Like every black man, like every person of color, like any clear-eyed person, I can empathize with Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Levar Jones, and the dozens of innocent murdered Americans of color. Like every black man or person of color, I am Alton Sterling. You see when that cop sees us; he views us through his distorted lens, the reflection of our who we are as a society.
A few years ago, immediately after the Trayvon Martin murder, I wrote the piece "I was Trayvon Martin the day I came to America." I wrote about adapting to America as a black man. All black men acquiesce to the fallacy, of being that perennial suspect to many people, that continuing danger to more.
Extricating prejudice from the every citizen is impossible. Given that a police force inherently mimics the body that it is from, one must expect that many officers carry their biases with them.
Laws and training must be used to mitigate racial biases and prejudice. Police officers have consistently got off with murdering innocent mostly people of color. Grand juries, your peers, have a utopian belief that cops are inherently different than the community as a whole. As such they are given a pass. The murders they commit are not murders because of their state of mind; they feared for their lives.
Well, if we have a community, society, a country, that irrationally fears people of color more so than the others, think people of color are less valuable than others, and unhinged murdering police officers are rarely convicted, then nothing will change. Police officers have no incentive to rethink their prejudices and biases. In fact, that is why nothing has changed.
Do you want the police to change? Do you want all lives to matter really? Do you think black lives matter? Look in the mirror. It is all up to you.