Speaking Up

I don’t like to write about what I don’t know. But I need to talk about this, in part because I don’t hear as many people talking about this as I think there should be, and why not start at home? I mean, there are of course a lot of people talking about this, but what about the rest of us?

So many thoughts that I shouldn’t be talking about this; I don’t have the life experience, the academic, the professional or the activist experience. I don’t know the exact statistics of death by cop (only that they’re incontrovertibly stacked against POC and poor Americans), the sociological underpinnings of what drives police brutality, and while I do have some historical perspective of how black people have suffered at the hands of a mostly white justice system in this country, there’s so much more to know. I have no experience in police enforcement, criminal apprehension or law. I wasn’t raised to distrust cops, because cops were never the threat to my health, safety and freedom that they have shown themselves to be to black Americans. I’m a middle class white lady who grew up in a middle class suburb, and whose only fear of police has been getting slapped on the wrist for underage drinking. I have friends and neighbors who are police. My first response to this currently publicized epidemic of cops murdering black Americans would once have been NotAllCops. I have always had a level of trust and optimism in the system that outweighed the distrust. At one time I would have thought that this was surely just a few bad cops, right? Right?

So one of the reasons I’ve been quiet is probably because of some ridiculous feeling that it’s not my place to talk about the murders of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Darrien Hunt, Aiyana Stanley-Jones… That I’ll unintentionally make this about something other than the extrajudical killing of black people, like the good-intentioned fail that was #CrimingWhileWhite. But people are dying, and it doesn’t matter that I’m uncomfortable. People are dying, and there’s no time to hide behind “It’s not my place.” If I screw this up, I’ll take my lumps, try to learn from them, make my apologies as necessary, hope I don’t do damage along the way. Because this is too much to leave unaddressed.

Even if I don’t have any solutions and the issues seem too big to fix, silence is acquiescence, and I do not agree with the way these cases have been going down. Cops shouldn’t be able to murder their fellow citizens without consequence.

And non-indictment for murders? Not even a trial? How is that even… Cops need to be held accountable for killing human beings. Why are we as jurors deciding that killing human beings is justified by our police? What botched standard are we measuring against that we have decided that cops pulling their guns and shooting someone is the most appropriate response to a person who is being rude or angry or argumentative? That shooting an unarmed suspect in the back because they run is defensible? When did we decide that this is okay?

I have been in shock for some time over the violence that police have been getting away with. How can this keep happening? How? At one time I thought cameras would make it all better. Put a camera on every cop and in every cop car, and then the bad seeds can’t get away with picking their nose, let alone willful, unprovoked violence. And barring that, surely in this age of citizen activism and cell phone cameras with instant uploading we could discourage racist, power-tripping, violent behavior and bring to justice those cops who broke the law. But the cameras didn’t help. They haven’t helped. Cops are still getting away with using excessive force, with beatings, threats and intimidation, with murder. It’s all recorded there – the proof that they could once claim didn’t exist – and it’s not helping. The evidence isn’t outweighing the racism. When I say it like that, it seems obvious: When has evidence ever overcome racism?

People are dying and I don’t know how to make it better. But I’m not going to sit quietly and click my tongue in disappointment every time there’s another new story about someone getting killed by a trigger-happy cop. And I’m not going to sit quietly when my neighbors and acquaintances click their tongues in disappointment about “those protesters with their looting and why can’t everyone sit down and talk about this in a civilized manner.”

People are dying. We owe them more than our uncomfortable silences. If you’re like me and don’t feel like you’ve been doing enough, it’s time to start participating in uncomfortable conversations and to actively seek out ways to make positive change on this front. Right now it all seems too big, but there are always opportunities to lend time, money, support, signatures, and to start conversations. If you want to and are able to lend financial support, there’s the Legal Support Fund in Missouri, and memorial fundraisers for Tamir Rice’s familyEric Garner’s family, and Darrien Hunt’s family. I’ll let you know what else I find. Please feel free to point to organizations or efforts that you find worthy of support in the comments below.

Note: If you put in more than two hyperlinks, your comment will be held for moderation, but I will be keeping an eye out for those and getting them approved quickly should they appear. I won’t vouch for the organizations listed by commenters, but if I find any that squicks me out, I will remove them.

Also some local activism: Protesters shutdown I-35W in Minneapolis No arrests – traffic shut down for hours while protesters marched down the highway then through Minneapolis to City Hall where they laid down and chanted “I can’t breathe”

Speaking Up