During my tenure running Project One World, I’ve switched gears, from the manned space programs (though this is still very much part of our central message) to basic civil activism and the promotion of happiness and acceptance of one another.
However, I witnessed something that gives me pause. I have the good fortune to have almost “mentored” (I use the term loosely) a few kids whose parents kind of consider me a decent person worth emulating. At the very least, they approach me for advice regarding how they can best help their communities. One of them is a black kid from a very poor family.
During a conversation over text about his grades (which are improving, by the way) he said, “It doesn’t matter what grades I get, a cop is probably gonna kill me anyway.” Now, given that it was a text conversation, I have no way of knowing whether or not he was saying that comment in jest. The fact that this kid has grown up in the shadow of poverty leads me to believe that he was absolutely serious.
Now, it appears, we have a much larger problem on our hands.
*** WARNING: This Dash-Cam Police VIDEO depicts an unarmed Tulsa black killed by police. ***
Our children are now growing up with the perception that the system is against them.
The statistics show that on the whole, more white people are killed by cops… Until you take away the weapons and look at the statistics only involving unarmed killings.
Black people have every reason to be upset.
The problem at this point, is that the rules of engagement (to borrow a military term) are not particularly clear in a lot of police jurisdictions and involve a lot of vague phrases, most of which stem from an individualistic and generalist interpretation of the 4th amendment.
One of those interpretations reads, “Law enforcement officers may use whatever force is reasonably necessary to effect an arrest or protect themselves (or others) from imminent harm. When using firearms, they should have specific targets and not engage in “cover fire” or “fire for effect” tactics commonly used by military personnel.”
When you add in the fact that there is a paucity of police officers with the proper training in de-escalation of potential deadly situations, this is what you get.
The result is clear. What we have is a growing generation of black children who are going to end up making fatal mistakes based on the viewpoint that from the day of birth they’ve been pushed into a systematic corner.
It almost doesn’t matter how big the problem of the institutionalized racism actually is, believe me, it’s big enough, because I don’t think that ANYONE can argue that the media has the tendency to hyper sensationalize everything these days, what matters more is how large the problem genuinely is perceived to be by those most affected by it.
This kid doesn’t care about the implications of the point-counterpoint offered by those trying to score political talking points, he just doesn’t want to end up with a bullet in his head by the very people whose car doors read, “To Serve, and Protect.”
In a behaviorally equal situation, where everyone does their best to not be dicks to each other, the onus should not be on the suspect to act civil, because there are techniques and procedures to attempt to de-escalate the situation in the event this does not happen (as in the case of a behaviorally unequal situation). The assumption is that everyone will act in civil fashion to each other. The onus is on the officer to exercise the proper duties of his office, and the force necessary and NOTHING MORE to stabilize a situation.
If a suspect acts in a combative way, then the situation should be matched by police, NOT escalated. If a suspect pulls a weapon out, every effort should be made to discourage the suspect from using it. What you don’t do, is automatically aim for a vital body center and pull the trigger unless loss of life is absolutely imminent. This is reality, not a damned standoff in the middle of a Jason Statham movie.
The fact that they are entrusted by society to uphold the law of the land, makes everything they do, by definition, have to be held to a higher standard.
Unfortunately, the only cases that are being put into the public eye are cases where police officers are gunning down unarmed civilians, and the majority of the unarmed civilians happen to be black.
A child can, and has recognized this.
The majority of police in this country do their damn jobs and do them well. If there is one major atrocity aside from the innocent blood spilled, it is the silent members of the blue elite that should be calling the offenders to account. This isn’t the old west, this is the 21st century where everyone, under the law, is supposed to be equal.
Those who can’t uphold and apply the law evenly across imaginary dividing lines of race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, should not be able to hide behind a shield. Those who stay silent while their brothers are doing their charges evil, should be held equally to account.
Failing this, how could I ever possibly convince a 10-year-old comic geek (who happens to be black) that the police are his friends?