Before we get started here today I want to state for the record that I’m not writing from the perspective of Black or white man. I’m not here as a Jew or a Christian, neither a republican nor a democrat. I sit here today as what I was when I was a born, a human being. Over the past several weeks and months there have been protests locally (Rhode Island), nationally and internationally, in reaction to what seems like a rash of police violence against the citizens that they are sworn to protect. These protests have captured the attention of news networks, social media and the population at large. Most of these demonstrations have been non-violent in nature, with the only scuttlebutt taking place in what seems like “ground zero” for the demonstrations, Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed 18 year old named Michael Brown was slain by police officer Darren Wilson. The demonstrations have been met with very mixed reactions because the protestors chose to block main roads and highways as a vehicle to get their message across, complaining that their methods are to extreme.
Two separate incidents, in two different parts of the United States have sparked outrage amongst black and young people who are growing upset because of the disproportionate amount of blacks who are killed by the police. In Staten Island, New York Eric Garner was choked to death on camera and Michael Brown was struck down in Missouri, and in both cases none of the police officers who were responsible for their deaths were indicted. According to FBI statistics in 2012, 31% of the people killed by the police were black, even though black people only make up 13% of the United States population. It’s sad that people get on TV and social media and do their best to make people feel bad for protesting, which is their American right, but in the same breath will say they support the grand jury decision of killing two unarmed individuals.
This is no longer a race issue, it’s a human right issue, although it does seem like there’s one race in particular that is catching hell. People will talk about Black on black crime in order to distract you and get you to “take your eye off the ball”, and get the attention off of the police officers who we pay to “serve and protect” us, are killing black people at a troubling rate, and getting away with it. We Know Black on Black Crime is a huge issue, it gets talked about a great deal. Go to any black church on a Sunday morning and you will hear people trying to put an end to the carnage. There are various government, community, sports and scholastic outreach programs aimed at guiding at-risk youth away from a life of crime. But no one’s doing anything about black on black crime? Its true 91% of black people are killed by black people, but 84% of white people are killed by whites. We take out our anger and frustrations on those closest to us; this even is true of our personal relationships. According to an FBI study in 2012 there 2,447 black people killed by other blacks, a painfully high number. However, there were 7,361 black people killed by other blacks in 1993, which means there has been a 67% decrease. That’s progress. So the next time someone like Charles Barkley or Rudy Gulliani get on TV and try to distract you with Black on Black violence, please change the channel.
One of the major problems we face in our communities is the militarization of the police force nationwide. We should feel like the police are working with us to protect us from violent criminals, we shouldn’t feel like the police are an occupying force that we should be afraid of or have an adversarial relationship with those who are supposed to be protecting us. Every time I get pulled over, 17 times in total during my lifetime, I get a knot in my stomach, my palms start sweating and my speech impediment becomes more pronounced because it feels like I’m going through a checkpoint in Fallujah instead of a simple traffic stop. I’m absolutely terrified of the people who are charged with protecting me. Our first black president Barack Obama, a natural moderate gave a speech after the news that there would be no indictment against Darren Wilson said, “the deep distrust that divides black and brown people from the police is tragic because these are the communities most in need of good policing. We as citizens want to be protected by the police!! We just don’t want to be in fear of criminals in our communities, and also in fear of the police. Most police officers are great people who do a great job, that’s not the major issue. The issue is a justice system that doesn’t hold those sworn to “serve and protect” to the same standard that it holds ordinary citizens too.
The opposition to the protests in this country has truly disturbed me; I thought it was our right as Americans to dissent and protest when we feel like we are being treated unjustly. The Boston Tea Party is held up as a symbol of freedom and Americans right to galvanize themselves against oppression. I guess that’s not allowed anymore, or only certain people or certain issues have the right to protest or be protested. I hate to say this but it seems like the residue of slavery and Jim Crow are still seeping into the discussion in 2014. Deny a certain swath of the population proper education, employment and fair housing. Just let crime and poverty fester, and then when their killed by cops say that they deserved it. Strip people of their humanity and dignity so it’s acceptable to treat them like animals or less than. I support the protestors but I’ve been told that people are laughing at them and it’s not getting anything accomplished, and won’t change the “majority’s” preconceived notions anyway. So if they’re already laughing at you and think you’re a savage, why not protest and let your voice be heard?
They say protest, but don’t in anybody’s way, don’t hold anybody up, don’t inconvenience anyone, but then who would notice? In the video above, Tupac Shakur does an incredible job of explain why people are fed up and tired of begging and asking for change and are taking a more proactive approach. People are quick to hold up Martin Luther King’s nonviolence movement as a shining example and Dr. King wouldn’t want people to be outspoken on race, protest and riot, but that misses the mark. Ta-Nehisi Coates put it best in his latest article in “The Atlantic” where he said, “What clearly cannot be said is that American society’s affection for nonviolence is notional. What cannot be said is that American society’s admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. increases with distance, that the movement he led was bugged, smeared, harassed, and attacked by the same country that now celebrates him. King had the courage to condemn not merely the violence of blacks, nor the violence of the Klan, but the violence of the American state itself.” In other words, if you feel like you or those in your community are being wronged, please don’t let anyone make you feel bad about exercising your right to let your voice be heard and disturb the status quo. Instead of shunning and treating those who are trying to be agents for change and fairness like outcasts, we should encourage their efforts. And even though rioting isn’t always the answer or productive, it is the language of the unheard. #LetsGetFree