“It is a dangerous time to be a police officer in this country. It is our job to protect them as well as the people they protect.”
— Andrew Ginther, Mayor of Columbus. This was during a press conference on the topic of Tyre King, a 13-year-old killed by police on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. Rest in peace, baby boy.
Earlier this week I attended Ohio State’s NAACP panel discussion featuring a diverse staff from OSU PD, a student in AFAMST who had an incident with the police that to this day he still doesn’t know what for, and Mrs. Hood, the mother of Henry Green (23) who was killed this summer due to a police-involved shooting.
I admit my initial deep-seeded searing bitterness as the police walked up to that stage and spit facts and stats at the crowd. Honestly, by the end of the discussion, I realized these humans really are trying the best they can to do their jobs. I do not doubt that a majority of policemen are decent people. But how do we wrap our heads around yet another shooting?
Mrs. Hood posed a question that I think our Mayor would benefit from hearing in this situation:
“How can they serve and protect a community that they have been taught to fear?”
Taught to fear.
Okay, yes. The classroom initiates ideas, namely ideas that uplift the white heteronormative patriarchy while eradicating and degrading the multifaceted narratives of minorities and erasing most of our contributions (save for slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, of course. do black people even exist in history books outside of these TWO realms?! If you think not, please READ BLACK AUTHORS STAT). But most of our behavior is learned through social interaction outside of academia.
People of color — and black men especially — have been portrayed as the “other” since our nation’s birth. Black men as slaves. Black men as poor. Black men as thugs. Black men as criminals. Black boys as black men, looking older, more threatening, more dangerous than the children they really are. With the expansion of media acting as the most invasive “teaching” force in our society, it’s imperative we fight against its power and corruption when it comes to increasing dissonance in an already segregated society.
We can say “not all police,” or “not all black men.” We can pick and choose which side of the story makes the cover of news for a few weeks. We can throw stats out the whazoo that defends any point of view you want. But until those in power move past this “us vs. them” mentality, at the end of the day, another body will be left in the streets, another family–another community, destroyed.
What further proof can we provide? What more audio-visual-statistical bloody evidence can we share for people to realize this police brutality issue is bigger than one community? Black people are dying by those who are supposed to protect them and yet our society chooses to defend a flag instead of a life.
We have to change the narrative of how we see one another. We HAVE to. It cannot be an effort made by just the black community, or just the police, or just mothers who have lost their sons, or just politicians–it has to be universal. Protests are loud and gather attention, but how many in the audience are actually listening?
How many in the audience even look different from the person holding the mic?
I don’t say this to belittle the strides of our movement or to shade the police. I definitely don’t think the conversation should be quiet or tame. It needs to be disruptive. But I think we’re missing the piece where conversation requires YOU (aka EVERYONE) to show up. It requires a humbling of those who think they have it all figured out and the resilience of those continuing to fight to be heard. If we can change minds, I truly believe we can change society.
I am beyond heartbroken every time I learn of another brother or sister through an obituary broadcasted in a cold headline. I have never wanted to give up hope so badly. But then, like, Psalm 3: 2-6 catches me:
“Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”
Having hope doesn’t mean you are always happy. It doesn’t mean you aren’t broken. It means you have something worth so much, you can’t ever give up fighting for it.