Black Lives Matter!
Horrific images, news stories of people being murdered by the very officers of the law sworn to protect and defend all citizens. George Floyd in Minneapolis pleaded for his life as the breath was pressed out of him by an officer kneeling on his neck. Rayshard Brooks fell asleep blocking a fast food restaurant’s lane. Police somehow allowed him to take one of their tasers, a non-lethal weapon. Rayshard paid with his life. Breonna Taylor was asleep in her bed when heavily armed police burst into her apartment shooting wildly. Aliatiana Jefferson was home with her 8 year old nephew when she was shot through her window. Her crime? The door to her home was left open, police were called by a concerned neighbor. Stephen Clark went down in a hail of bullets for standing in his grandmother’s yard. His crime? Holding a cell phone. Botham Jean was just sitting on his couch eating ice cream when a police officer living in the building, confused his apartment with hers, entered and shot him. Philando Castille was understandably nervous when he was pulled over for a traffic stop. He informed the officer that he had a gun in the car, that he had a permit to carry the weapon, whereupon the officer shot him. Eric Garner was being arrested for selling cigarettes. The officer put him in a chokehold, he died. Akai Gurley was just walking down the stairwell, not even involved with the police, when he was shot by an officer. Tamir Rice was a 14 year old kid playing in the park with a toy gun when he was shot and killed by police. Would a white kid playing with a toy guy have been shot? In Minnesota a 17 year old white kid armed with a lethal weapon he had just used to kill two protesters and grievously injure a third was arrested without receiving any injury from police. This is, unfortunately, just a few from a long list of people killed by officers sworn to protect and defend.
Clearly something is wrong with the system. To say it needs to be fixed is a monumental understatement. After the senseless, cruel killing of George Floyd, with the number of people reading books on racism and marching to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, I was hopeful meaningful change could finally be achieved. Then one lone Senator kept a bill addressing the issue from passing. The protests devolved into rock throwing, fire lighting, and destructive behavior. I believe in protest, have marched and see it as a way to move the conversation forward. But rioting is not productive of anything beyond chaos and the loss of an opportunity for progress.
Also, I fear we are losing perspective on the issue of police. There are 686,665 police officers in the US according to Statista.com. Not all of them are racists. Indeed that number includes people of color. Let us not, please not, forget the firefighters and police officers who didn’t think twice but rushed into the doomed twin towers to save lives. Because that is what good cops do, they protect and defend, putting their lives on the line. We ask them to stop murderers, catch rapists, pursue armed robbers, and break up gang violence. Police die while executing their duties. Officer Ryan Winkeler pulled a car over for a routine traffic stop, the driver opened fire killing him. Officers Kaulike Kamal and Tiffany-Victoria Enriquez were called to a disturbance involving a stabbing, they were shot and killed. Deputy Sheriff Richard Whitten responded to a shots fired call, he was shot and killed. Trooper Joseph Jon Bullock helped a motorist with a disabled car, when the man became upset about the cost of a tow truck, he pulled a weapon and killed Trooper Bullock. Officer David Kellywood was shot and killed responding to a call of shots fired. Officer James O’Conner shot and killed trying to apprehend a homicide suspect. Officer Ryan Walsh shot and killed responding to a shooting at a convenience store. Sergeant Ben Jenkins shot and killed when trying to help a disabled motorist. Officer Breann Leath shot and killed when she responded to a domestic dispute. And the list, unfortunately, goes on.
As a country we are in a time of crisis. Black Lives Matter, we need to not only insure that people of color are not murdered by police, but also address the economic, education, and housing inequity they continue to suffer. Police officers should have the training, back up, and access to assistance from the mental health community to deescalate situations far before they end in a loss of life on either side. All parties must have a place at the table; community leaders, activists, government, mental health professionals, and police in a search for solutions. Let’s not devolve into a nation of hate, lets recognize our common humanity and seek solutions. I don’t have the answers, but no one should remain silent on this issue. The killing must stop! Rev. Martin Luther King said it best; I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Let's honor that dream work for solutions, and treat each other with kindness.