I’ve just about lost my damn mind.
I keep thinking that there will be some point when someone says, “No more.” Where one of these incidents will be so barbaric, and so clearly documented, that everyone who looks at the case will say, “This absolutely cannot be allowed to happen; never again.” In my foolishness, I thought the shooting-on-sight of a 12-year-old boy at a playground would be on of those stopping points, where we would have to hold ourselves and our public officials accountable.
For those inclined to think that highlighting persistent, deadly racial justice issues is divisive, perhaps this alternative argument will resonate; a brief except from the article is below:
“What we see with Tamir Rice—and what we’ve seen in shootings across the country—is what happens when the officer’s safety supercedes the obligation to accept risk. If ‘going home’ is what matters—and risk is unacceptable—then the instant use of lethal force makes sense. It’s the only thing that guarantees complete safety from harm.
It’s also antithetical to the call to ‘serve and protect.’ But it’s the new norm. And worse for any accountability, it sits flush with our broad sympathy with police in the courts of law and public opinion. So that, when police kill someone in this relentless drive to reduce risk, it’s almost impossible to hold officers accountable, barring incredible circumstances. The public just accepts that this is what police had to do … Given this status quo, Tamir Rice—his shooting and the officers’ acquittal—is inevitable. Indeed, it’s almost certain to happen again.”
The unjustified murder of #TamirRice is a clear example of an “incredible circumstance,” and yet it still was not sufficient to convince a grand jury that law enforcement officers need to be accountable for their use of force. We are now actively supporting “shoot first, ask questions later” as appropriate policing policy, at least for people of color. HOW ON EARTH does that conform to any definition of the liberty and justice that our laws and Constitution are meant to guarantee?
Are we seriously prepared to argue that civilian protective services have the discretion to shoot people on sight if they feel in any way uncomfortable or threatened, and that they should feel no compunction about doing so? If you are defending these kinds of actions by police, are you comfortable with police being empowered to kill you, your friends and family members, or your children anytime you are carrying anything that could be construed as a weapon or doing anything other than immediately and silently complying with police instructions? Do you or any of your friends and family members own a real or imitation weapon, and do you think that you should be shot for displaying or handling it in public?
Enough is enough – except it isn’t in this country. We accept murder with minimal or no provocation as a proper police function. We accept mass shootings as an appropriate side effect of our current gun laws. And yes, we accept clearly race-differentiated applications of law, policy, and state-sanctioned force as routine and completely permissible. We have reached the point (in fact, we’re far past it) where any of us who decide that we are not actively dedicating our time and energy to changing one or more of these things are actively sanctioning them with our silence and inaction.
If you don’t like that characterization, and you want to view yourself as part of the solution rather than the problem, then take time NOW, before the end of 2015, to find out what other people in your neighborhood/community/city/state/district/region are doing on one of these fronts. Call or email someone to get more information. Schedule a call or meeting with a nearby activist or organizer. Send out a message to some friends asking if you can get together and talk about what you can do together. Ask your elected officials and candidates for office at every level how they intend to lead in confronting these issues and how you can support them and hold them accountable in doing so. Do not let another year pass where we accept these deaths as the status quo.
This is not a progressive/liberal/Democrat concern. If you are a United States citizen or resident, and you believe that the things we call “American values” (like freedom, justice, democracy, equality; or protection of our lives, property, and rights from being taken by other parties or by our government) ought to be truth rather than fiction, these things cannot continue. We have no greatness or moral standing as a nation if we turn a blind eye to murder and injustice within our borders. Our values are meaningless if we will not stand up and hold to them because we prefer convenience and complacency to the fight for true liberty.