“I remember reading an article about the woman in that Oakland neighborhood who lost all her children to violence. I wondered why’d she keep living there after the first one was killed. Didn’t she care about the others? Today, I zoomed out and wondered why I’m still in America.”
– Darnell Lamont Walker
Here is exactly how my Thursday morning went on June 7th, 2016.
I woke up around 6am to tell my company I wasn’t feeling well, and that I would be working from home so I didn’t get the others sick. I then closed Slack and turned to open my group text messages, and I learned that there was another shooting in Minnesota; this one just mere hours after Alton Sterling was gunned down in sheer daylight. Philando Castile, who was with his girlfriend and a 4 year old child, was pulled over for a routine traffic violation, and he was also shot to death.
I put my hands over my eyes, and I cried.
Tears flooded my face. I wanted to reach out and hug them for everything these men stood for; for all they were, and for all the things they will never get to be. My first thought was, God, why? Why are “we”, as Americans, killing our own with a frequency that is so violent, so unjust, so wrong? What are we doing to ensure police brutality and unjust killings don’t continue to happen?
The truth of it all is that “we”, as Americans, aren’t doing anything about it.
For the first time in my life, I googled “what it takes for a person to become a police officer.” Today, I learned that there are 626 local and state law enforcement academies across the nation, and there is no standard national curriculum, but the state may guide agencies in developing training programs.
There is no standard national curriculum across these governing training academies. This means that there is no person or agency or group of advisors that dictates what officers should and shouldn’t be learning when they are going through their initial training. According to that article, they don’t even have a standard length of time they are enrolled in when taking these training classes. Some could be in training for 4 weeks, while others are enrolled for 6 months, it’s a location to location preference. While reading even further, this is what the recommendedtraining regimen from 2002 looked like:
Police officers in training will spend 60 hours learning how to handle weapons and firearms, which is absolutely necessary, in contrast to 4 hours of training on hate and bias crimes, which only 85% of the academies across the nation perform. Wait, what?
I know I’m Indian, and therefore, I should be a natural born mathlete, but I too, will be pulling out the calculator for this one. Of the 626 law enforcement training academies, approximately 85% provide some type of education and training around hate and bias crimes. Of the 626 training agencies there were in the nation in 2002, 94 of them did not offer any training around hate and bias crimes. How is the crucial topic of hate and bias crimes not discussed at 94 locations, and why is it swept under the rug so conveniently?
Why are we not investing tax payers’ dollars, these Black Lives’ tax dollars, into setting a training standard for every man, woman and person who chooses to put on a uniform to protect and serve in the United States of America?
While watching the Philando Castile video this morning, it was evident to me, that this police officer was terrified. The panic in his voice was so very real and true, and for one reason or another, he felt compelled to pull that trigger. A small part of me wants to believe that if he had received the proper education and training; if someone had spent more time with him on understanding diversity, combatting hate and bias crimes, learning how to deal with repeat offenders in the community, etc., we would be seeing different outcomes.
We, as a society and a community, need the police. There are a lot of good police officers in the community doing fantastic jobs and for those individuals, I am grateful. My concern lies with all the people who are in uniform that are not trained to do their jobs correctly. Pulling out a taser and using it on someone for more than 30 seconds, slamming someone to the floor, face first or pulling the trigger when you ask someone to give you their license and registration, while they’re reaching to get it for you, proves there is something so very wrong with the current training techniques. We, as people, need to do better when we train law enforcement; if you’re a great cop, it’s your job to help your partner be better, and if you’re a cop, and you see injustice on your team, YOU need to speak up about it. That, is how change happens.
My heart is broken. It’s broken for every criminal who can look in a judge’s face and get his sentenced reduced, even though he clearly destroyed a young woman’s livelihood; it’s broken for every black parent who is having the difficult conversation of how their kids should behave if they are ever confronted with the police; it’s broken for all love that has been replaced with hate in every heart of a victim’s survivor. And there is nothing anyone can say to reverse the damages that have been caused.
The world needs answers, and it needs apologies. When you take a man or woman out of that uniform, they are a human being. They have the same code of conduct as every other person on this planet, and they should be very responsible for their actions. If the law enforcement agencies feel as though they are above apologies, then I hope they prepare themselves for battle. Whether the battle happens through signing petitions for change, protests around the world or riots in the streets; change is going to happen one way or another. It has to.
While writing this blog post, I’d like to remind you how my week went.
- Monday: America celebrates it’s 240th birthday being known as “the land of the free and the brave.” – Today’s hashtag: #4thOfJuly
- Tuesday: I was feeling unmotivated and I had an energy healing session with my friend Safyra. – Today’s hashtag: #LoveIsMyReligion
- Wednesday: Alton Sterling was murdered outside a liquor store he visited frequently while selling CD’s; no weapons in sight. – Today’s hashtag: #AltonSterling
- Thursday: Philando Castile was murdered after he was pulled over for a routine traffic stop while reaching for his license and registration, in front of his family. Today’s hashtag: #PhilandoCastile
- Thursday (again): Black man found hanging from a tree at a popular KKK meeting destination, and police have ruled it as a suicide, while the mayor hands the case over to the FBI. – Tonight’s hashtag: #PiedmontParkHanging
We are all more than a hashtag.
Congratulations law enforcement. If your job was to scare society to the point where they won’t even come to you if they need real help, you’ve won. While we sit here with our heads in our hands and red brimmed eyes, let us never forget the fallen. While the list of victims continues to grow, these families are still waiting for some type of justice to come their way.
We, as Americans, our killing our future; we’re destroying hope and faith, and most importantly, we don’t care we’re doing it. What happened to the good in people? What happened to the oath of protecting and serving the people? Who is going to protect me from the terrorists in uniform that my country puts in place? How do I stop being scared all the time? Is there anyone out there who can answer my questions?
With the heaviest heart and tear filled eyes,
Published by Vaishali Rana