U.S.: Police Warfare on Blacks Must Stop
U.S. police have to change their stance on black Americans.
As a black man and the father of a 20-year old young black man in America, I am in distress. The chance of one of us being shot and killed by the police is no longer a remote possibility. It is real.
After a white police officer, Daren Wilson, shot and killed an unarmed 18-year old Michael Brown at Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, many people thought the riots and speeches that followed would slow police down. That was not the case.
Since Ferguson, police have shot and killed many black men and women in different towns and cities across the nation. While some of the killings – like that of Freddie Gray of Baltimore who died through injuries he got while in police custody – have received national attention, there are many cases that did not make headlines.
However, nothing prepared me for the livestream video of the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota on July 10, 2016.
The graphic video of the dead man with his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds narrating the events, coupled with the shrill voice of Diamond’s 4-year old daughter at the back seat who witnessed the shooting sent shock waves up my spine.
As Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton bluntly put it, if Philando Castile had been white, he might not have been killed. This is a reality many Americans, including whites and other groups know.
What makes the shooting at Falcon Heights, Minnesota more disturbing is that it happened within forty-eight hours after police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana shot and killed Alton Sterling. He was another black man in an incident witnesses believe was escalated by the police.
Sending the country in a tailspin
As the country was still trying to absorb what actually happened in Minnesota, five police officers were allegedly killed by a black man in Dallas, sending the country into a tailspin.
As the debate about how to stop these killings takes center stage in the media again, one fact remains clear: American police are armed for battle, and their mistrust of blacks quickly leads them to pull the trigger without hesitation.
Perhaps, as President Obama implied in his remarks after the shooting, the difficult history of this country of enslaving black people has not left the psyche of many of the officers, and they do not regard blacks as equals to be treated with dignity and respect.
It’s different elsewhere
On a trip to London, England last year, a white police officer stopped the woman driving me and two other black men from the airport for a broken brake light.
The policeman, who did not carry a weapon, was on a motor bike. He walked to our car and gently told the woman that her brake lights were not working. He asked us to step out and get some fresh air while he spoke to the driver and advised her to go fix the lights.
He gave her a warning ticket, cracked a few jokes and left. There was no yelling, let alone shooting, and the whole incident ended within 15 minutes.
To stop white officers from killing black people, they have to be trained that black men (and women), like the rest of the population in America, should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The police have to stop assuming that their lives are in danger because they are dealing with a black person.
We have tried to do all the right things like being polite to the police, and only moving when they ask us to move. Yet, they still shoot us.
As President Obama visits Dallas to honor the five slain officers, police forces around the nation must revise their stance against and view of black people.
They have to start building trust among blacks who have been demonized and killed by a police and justice system that often treat blacks unfairly.
Change in approach needed
It is only when police change their approach like not shooting and killing a black man for a broken taillight that America will begin to heal from the malady that has engulfed this nation for years.