“Sometimes I just want to pack up and take you kids back home … back to Tanzania,” my mother tells me.
She lives in fear for my life. Not just because I’m a carefree teenage boy, living it up. She’s feared for me since the day I was born because of the color of my skin.
The morning after she heard of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man in Georgia who was shot and killed by two white men while he was running in broad daylight, my mom begged me not to go on a run. She feared I, too, would be gunned down in the street.
I can’t speak for my mom or any other black mom, but I know I don’t want this same reality for my kids.
I realize now that all of the nights I have spent annoyed at my mom for being “overbearing,” she has been, in reality, terrified I could die. Scared I might not come home. My mother has lived in fear for the past 16 years, just like generations of black mothers before her.
My mother fears for my life, I fear for my life and I freeze up when police take lives. It’s hard to stand when you’re conditioned from birth to be scared.
I was taught to speak to police differently, I was taught to keep my hands visible and not make any sudden movements. Heaven forbid I reach for my driver’s registration too quickly or grab my wallet from my pocket.
There is no one solution to this problem. Anarchy isn’t one. Not all cops are bad, but the power given to them by a corrupt institution can in turn corrupt them. The system in itself is largely prejudice.
The police officers who murdered George Floyd last month looked comfortable doing so. Derek Chauvin, who had his knee on Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air, actually looked pleased with himself. None of the other cops surrounding Chauvin feared losing their jobs. None of them worried about the possibility of going to prison. If they did, they would have stopped after the first time Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.”
Watching that terrible video of Floyd’s death, it’s clear how easy it was for the cops to take a life. It makes me wonder if it was their first time.
The existing police force is conditioned to believe that killing is part of their job — a necessary power to have out in the field.
It shouldn’t be.
No one is scared of firefighters. When a firetruck pulls behind you, you don’t second guess your hand position on the steering wheel. If the police are here to protect us the same as firefighters, then why do we all get scared when those red and blue lights flash behind us? It’s simple: They can take life.
Our culture believes it’s necessary that they do. We give them the power to kill strangers without being held accountable to the same degree as us. Why do all police officers need weapons? America already has mobile and militarized teams. Do highway patrols really need guns?
I want change.
A patrol police officer doesn’t need access to lethal force. Mace and Tasers are plenty effective to incapacitate the average citizen. This relatively simple change in police culture would greatly reduce the number of extraneous deaths caused by bloodthirsty cops.
Proper prosecution of police officers is the next step. By setting a precedent in which police are above the law, the justice system has failed to appropriately charge and convict them of their crimes. A police force that is above the law has the implicit power to murder the citizens it was sworn to protect. This power corrupts and enables.
Even the semi-rigorous training provided in the police academy can’t stand up to the power bestowed upon the police. A young cadet with the intent of serving the community can become the next murderer. What can be expected from a system that has not experienced reform since its original purpose to preserve slavery?
“A couple of bad apples,” is always the argument people make, but when the police have inspired such a great amount of fear that I — and so many people of color — get shaky every time I hear a siren, it’s clear that the good cops might actually be the exception.
The police forces we know today have failed the people their officers swore to protect. Black people are tired of the fear and hate perpetuated by law enforcement. The legislation that needs to be written is apparent to all of us. If our politicians fail us, I have no question about the inevitability of a powerful uprising led by the people.
It’s time for a revolution.