The system of law enforcement is broken. It didn’t break just yesterday, either. Or the day before that, or even a year prior. It was always broken. Thanks to social media and cameras, we’ve all witnessed this truth throughout the last decade.
Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Jacob Blake. And how many others?
We’ve said their names, seen the social media posts and hashtags made to commemorate their lives, and are still confused by the lack of humanity possessed by those meant to protect us. What’s the difference between a murder-by-officer compared to an ordained hate crime? A badge is meant to be a symbol of honor, not a cover-up that equates someone to above the law they’re sworn into upholding.
It is true that not every police officer is corrupt. Okay, so there are men and women who put their lives on the line every single day to ensure a community’s safety and prosperity. However, a badge is also a modern-day method of concealing a thug’s identity. According to Google, the definition of a gang is “a group or society of associates, friends or family [members]... that identifies with or claims control over territory in a community and engages, either individually or collectively, in illegal, and possibly violent, behavior.” The Police Bill of Rights literally allows a police officer to rid themselves of all accountability. Literally, just walk away clean without any worry or concern.
So, that brings up the question: what is the difference between a precinct terrorizing Black people in the neighborhoods they’re meant to patrol, and gang members sparking violence throughout self-proclaimed territory? The answer is that only one group of people is ever punishable by law. Only one group of people is ever expected to one-day become accountable. The other realizes the law will actually protect them.
99% of murders by police officers between 2013-2019 resulted in a life lost, but did not result in a charge for the crime. Compared to other first-world countries, police in the US kill citizens at a disappointingly higher rate. It is no longer a surprise that Black men comprise the majority of those losing their lives in this country, either. If you actually Google the Police Bill of Rights, which does differ from state-to-state, it’s basically a document that excuses police officers of any liability and requirement to remain transparent and even honest in their police reports.
1 in 1,000 Black men are expected to lose their lives to police brutality. By comparison, 96 out of 100,000 Black men will die at the hands of the police, while the same is predicted for 39 out of 100,000 non-Latino White men. That means Black men are over twice as likely to have their lives cut short due to an altercation with a police officer. They’re also 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed, as well.
Although there are people who question the necessity to talk about race, Black people aren’t continuing this conversation because, “we just have to complain.” It’s not because we haven’t attempted to move on. If you don’t believe me, you can do research on once-thriving Black communities. Such as Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, formerly known as America’s Black Wall Street up until 1921, when White looters burned it to the ground and drove all of its affluent inhabitants out. All because of an alleged rape, which was never proven or even had the chance of reaching a verdict in court.
Adding on, it’s not because we don’t want to succeed and needlessly blame all of our problems on racism or the after-effects of slavery. It’s not because we’re pointlessly trying to make things about “Black vs. White.” It’s because we are not born with the luxury of not being able to think about race, since we are the ones meant to be oppressed by the institution of racism.
Racism in this country works on a basis that classifies people as either White or Black. (Even those deemed as Black, by the people who created its definition only further confuses and obscures its definition, but that’s another conversation). That’s why our skin tone introduces us before our character does in the eyes of so, so many. While other countries divide their people instead by religion, social class, or gender, race was the targeted way of creating a caste system to determine first- and second-class citizens in the US.
If you’ve grown tired of hearing about it, imagine how much more tired people are with experiencing it. Actually, exhausted is the better word.
Basically, we had to power through. But many of our efforts were broken down. We’re conditioned to believe that we’re less than, and as a result, many of us grow up feeling it’s true. As a large-scale self-fulfilling prophecy, there are other non-Black people (and even Black people who might not even realize they’re conditioned to believe so) who have grown up believing the same about us. We carry on the conversation to express another side of the story, one that is all too often silenced and neglected.
When you allow others to tell your story, you’re leaving it up to chance. We’ve left it up to chance for long enough. The truth is Black people are the people-of-color facing the bulk of the repercussions against a law system made to oppress them. That is why Black Lives Matter.
Because given what this country has shown us, Black lives are seen as expendable. We’re seen as useless unless we allow ourselves to be used by a system meant to demean who we are at heart: people. Who love the same way. Who breathe the same way. Who jog the same way. Who walk into our cars in the same way. Who sleep in our beds in the dead of night, in the exact same way.
Today, it’s practically normalized and expected to hear about officers killing innocent Black people. It’s sad to think about how desensitized we’re becoming to it. But 2020 seemed to provide us with enough of the spark to begin taking action again. Because at this point we’ve all just grown worn out and disappointed with the truth. If this doesn’t signal the desperate need for reform of a system, what will?