Tuesday, November 25, 2014

6.25 Courage - Nationwide Discussion on Hard Issues

Bestest Friend and I are in the middle of a blog project. Each day of the month we will post a picture on a pre-determined theme and write a little something about it. The theme for the twenty-fifth day of each month is "Courage."
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Here's the deal. I don't actually care much about the facts of the case. A teenager died, a police officer shot twelve shots, and I don't know that much else needs to be said. This young man was beloved by his parents, had all the future in the world available to him, complete with college plans and direction, and this was his fate.
 
What I do care is that some people are still denying that this is a story about race. Who cares if the dead man was black and that the man who fired twelve shots was white, they say.
 
It matters if the folks who took to the street, protesting violently or peaceably, say it matters. If there is perceived discrimination of the criminal justice system, then this case doesn't matter, really (although of course it matters greatly to the family of the young man who won't get to move into his college dorm), but the fact that it is catalyzing so many people to talk about race does matter.  

I do see the police officer's point of view. He felt threatened. He saw a young black man coming at him, reaching under his shirt, and he assumed the worst.  But it's bullshit that he was so scared that a member of the "urban youth" had a gun. If there's systematic bias in charging and prosecuting black men for crimes in the criminal justice system, there's a systematic stupidity in this country that allows every crazy person to carry a gun. 

But I digress.  

Race matters. It matters because that officer assumed that the unarmed man was armed because he was black. It matters because there aren't proportionally as many black people on police forces because it's impossible to recruit black people to police departments because qualified black men and women have more prestigious work to do and there's a history of animosity between police and many minority populations. It matters because until the police force can look like the people it's supposed to serve and protect, the symbolism of a white officer shooting an unarmed black citizen will continue to galvanize certain members of certain communities into violence.  Race matters because when black people took to the streets to protest, the police handled it in a way that makes the National Guard at Kent State look level-headed. Race matters.
Justice for all kitties!!
I can't imagine how hard it is to be a young black man in the United States today. I can't imagine how hard it is to be a police officer in an area where you feel threatened by young black men all day. I can't imagine how this police officer will live the rest of his life knowing he overkilled a bright young man. I can't imagine the pain of the family members of either party in this case.

But I can imagine, and hope, that we talk about these things and come to an understanding that fixing the injustices and inequities will not be easy.  But it's absolutely worth it if we can stop just one horrific death.
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 To see what Bestest Friend wrote about the theme of the day, check out her blog, Too Legit to Quit.

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