My Dearest fellow Americans,
This has got to stop. Excessive police force that leaves black communities awash in misery and suffering affects us all. Let me repeat myself. This affects us all.
This week, not one but two black men were unjustifiably killed by police officers. Their crimes? Alton Sterling was selling CDs and had a fire arm in an open-carry state and Philando Castile had a broken tail light: these are not capital offenses.
Footage of Alton Sterling:
Footage of Philando Castile
The problems extend beyond the initial killings. Remember, Eric Garner from New York? Recall, he died from a chokehold administered by the NYPD. The only man charged with a crime was Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the police murdering Mr Garner. Today, Orta, is going to prison for 4 years under a plea deal. Not one police officer was brought to justice for killing Garner – a man who had committed no crime that day. The only conviction went to the man who exposed the wrongdoing.
John Crawford III.
This woefully inadequate list contains victims of police brutality that I named off the top of my head. There are hundreds of victims who were people that didn’t deserve to die at the hands of the State.
To the families of those named and unnamed – I’m so deeply sorry. I am ashamed to live in a country where I feel the need to say the things that my other “white” friends, family, and colleagues won’t say. I am so very sorry. I don’t know what it’s like to live my everyday life in fear of constant police harassment. I don’t know what it’s like to be watched by neighbours or store clerks. I don’t know what it’s like for others to perceive me as a constant threat to them simply because of the colour of my skin. I don’t know what it’s like to mourn members of my community murdered in cold blood and then be told to bow my head and to stop complaining.
To my friends, family, and colleagues that make excuses for police who unjustifiably murder the communities they are to protect and serve: listen up! This blanket violence affects you, too. Look around. State and local police forces are starting to look like occupying forces of invading armies. There will come a time when not even the colour of your skin will protect you.
Look at our justice system. It has two tiers. Only the richest and most prestigious among us get justice. The FBI recently refused to indict Hillary Clinton even though it acknowledged she knowingly broke the laws and was extremely recklessness with Top Secret information. The Clintons are one of the most prestigious families around. Yet, Edward Snowden is in exile for leaking information about America’s violation of civil liberties and human rights. Private Manning is serving a hefty prison sentence for leaking information about what our government does with our tax dollars. US diplomats violated fewer laws and received more punishment than Clinton. This goes to show that here, in America, if you’re an ordinary person, you belong to the other tier of (in)justice.
Eventually, this problem will affect all ordinary Americans.
Corrections Corporations of America and the GEO group, the largest for-profit prison corporations have created perverse incentives to lock people up and, thus, to police them. An abundant defence budget has created a surplus of military-grade equipment that is passed on to the police departments and officers policing YOU. The easiest way to fulfil quotas is to police the most vulnerable, and poorest, among us. Considering America is headed into oligarchy, the poorest among is about 80% of the population
For the love of God, stop calling victims of police brutality “criminals.” My fellow Americans, have you forgotten that here, in America, one is innocent until proven guilty? Police officers aren’t to be the judge, jury, and executioner. Police officers are only to arrest suspects and the court system is to decide the rest. Victims of police brutality are deprived of their lives, liberty, property, and their day in court. Officers may only legally use deadly force when it’s justified. Sterling and Castile weren’t using deadly force against officers. In fact, Castile was following the officers’ commands when he was shot.
To say shooting and killing a black person is justified because he or she is a “criminal” because he or she has a prior record – is simply despotic and demonstrates ignorance of the American legal system. Such a claim is absurd and laughable at best. Here, in America, we convict people based on evidence that they committed said crime. Evidence proving a prior crime was committed has no bearing in future crimes unless the crimes are directly connected.
For example, in Eric Garner’s case, he was previously convicted and punished for selling loose cigarettes. He received punishment for his previous crime. On the day of his death, Garner had broken up a fight. The arresting officers recognized Garner from his prior offense of selling individual cigarettes and proceeded to choke him and they did so with no probable cause that he had even committed a crime. So, to say Garner was a criminal who had it coming is particularly loathsome and lacks any foundation. Sadly, I’ve seen this argument all over my Facebook newsfeed.
To all Police Officers – this affects you, too. Each time these instances occur and you stand silent; you become accomplices to State-sanctioned murder. Maybe you’re jaded. Maybe this isn’t enough to stop you from watching this happen repeatedly. Maybe this isn’t enough to stop accepting the cyclical indiscriminate killing of black people. But let me be very clear, the “bad apples” affect the entire department’s barrel. Black and brown communities live constant in fear of police brutality and also live in a country that tells them to arm themselves for protection. Eventually, this makes policing a very dangerous job. Officers must speak out or risk facing more anger and hostility, which in turn creates a more dangerous job.
But it doesn’t stop there. There’s been this insidious wave, or backlash, to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. #BlueLivesMatter was created as a direct response to #BlackLivesMatter. In fact, Louisiana created a bill called “Blue Lives Matter” that makes violence against police a Hate Crime. Here’s the problem: there’s an all-time low of violence perpetrated against police.
This unnecessary bill is akin to the US claiming to fight a War on Terror to justify breaking international law and indiscriminately killing Muslims abroad. But the War on Terror was based on a lie. Similarly, this bill is also based on the lie that there’s a problem where police are being killed on duty more than ever before. WRONG. It’s the absolute opposite. There’s an epidemic of black men, women, and children being shot by police. There’s not an epidemic of black people killing police. Even after the devastating police deaths in the Dallas shooting, officer deaths are still at an all time low.
Let me be very very clear. I am not pitting one group against another. I am not holding one loss of life more tragic than another. We’re all humans. Not one life lost is better or worse than another. It’s still possible to mourn the tragedies of police lives and the loss of black lives. There are plenty of outstanding officers that do protect and serve but the point is that the good officers must speak out against the bad to protect themselves and protect the people they are serving.
But the fact remains that less than 1% of police officers are held accountable for these shootings. Whenever a police officer gets killed in the line of duty, charges are almost always pressed against the assailant. However, the Blue Lives Matter bill basically codified and legalized unjustified police-perpetrated killings.
America, you must do better. Remember, that a nation is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable. America isn’t a constitutional republic or a representative democracy, anymore. It’s an oligarchy, where the rich and powerful have a different type of justice system and everyone at the bottom suffers. If we continue down this path, one day, not even the colour of your skin can save you. So, speak out against the injustices of the system. In the end, it’s not the words of our enemies that destroy us: it’s the silence of our friends.