[Editor's Note: Given recent events, we are stepping outside of our normal topic to address matters. This will be in place of our usual off-topic open thread this evening. Please keep the comments civil]
It's 5:58 am on a Thursday morning. I haven't slept in over a day. How could I? Why should I? We are in a day and age where society has caused us to live these compartmentalized lives. Look past the obvious innocent crimes that are taking place on a daily basis and treat it as it's acceptable.
Those are a few words to describe how I feel this morning. You know what I don't feel, surprised. This is happening on a daily basis. You're ignorant if you don't think this is happening all over the country. If you've never been exposed to it, I guess I get that. It's been happening for decades. The difference now is there are cameras to record these acts. I've lived in predominantly white towns and have attended an all black college. I've seen and been a victim of obvious racism by police. There are endless ones but here are three examples, none, thankfully, involving murder.
I'm in college, and I get pulled over for speeding. The speed limit was 35. I was going 37 mph. You read that right. Getting pulled over for going two mph over the limit. Same situation, I have to get out, go through a bunch of questions and sit in his back seat with handcuffs on. I'm released with no harm done, but again, this is where we are at. Because they have the power to do something, they do it.
Riding with one of my best friends Tommy and he gets pulled over for his "muffler being too loud." Cop threw his pen on the ground, told Tommy to pick it up. I shit you not. Looked another grown man in the face and asked him that level of ridiculousness. As you can imagine, he said no, they just went back and forth for awhile. He gets handcuffed, put in the back of a car, call three additional units, search the car and question both of us. 40 minutes later we are both released. The power and the ability to get away with these type of things is terrifying.
A teammate of mine is being too loud outside, and the police are called for "disturbing the peace," this is on a Saturday night in a college town for what it's worth, the police show up. A group of us are walking back to our apartments as the police car pulls up. They ask us "which one of you is Ryan", and Ryan answers. He doesn't give them the information they're looking for, and the police officer doesn't like that. The officer used a taser on Ryan to "calm him down" because he was afraid the situation was getting out of control. A taser. There wasn't a hint of any physical altercation, but because the officer felt that this was justified, he could do this with no repercussion.
The recent shootings yesterday, and really the "major" shootings this year have hit home unlike anything else. If you have a family or a pulse, I imagine you feel the same as I do. I saw someone say "black people live in fear of an emboldened police state, and white cops live in fear of some kind of karmic retribution. The difference is one of them can kill with their fear." I would agree with that. As obvious as the racism is in these murders I do not want to turn this into a black versus white thing, which I easily could, but this is a right versus wrong thing. It's remarkable that in these videos the cops don't bother with seeking medical help or attention. How come nobody ever mentions that?
I've been exposed to police officers and their behavior quite a bit. I would say 8/10 fall under a specific stereotype. These are the people that have yearned for authority all of their life, and now that they finally have it, they abuse the hell out of it. This is not a piece trying to convince you to be "anti-police." You can make that judgment on your own. Police have been very helpful in my life as well. I've also seen them diffuse "major" situations. The Planned-Parenthood shooter and Charleston come to mind. There's certainly a place for them.
Time for a change
I believe it's time for the police to take a hard look in the mirror and admit that they have a problem. The fact that we are over four years removed from the Trayvon Martin incident and still are suffering from these tragedies on seemingly a month-to-month basis is a god damn shame. What makes it worse is that we can pretend to care a few days, have a march or a rally and, my favorite, "prayers for the family" without any actual support towards the actual family or solution to the problem. It's embarrassing to read other policemen support these blatant crimes just because one guy is wearing a badge and the other isn't. So we know that's not a solution. Here's how I believe the police can take ownership; by implementing a program or making some major corrections to their current one and retrain all officers on when to use deadly force. Again, while there certainly was fear of race/conflicted emotion, this boils down to right and wrong.
Never in a million years should a gun be drawn on a man who is following directions that he was given from the police officer. Never should a child and their mother have to witness what happened last night. I get angry thinking about it. Honestly, I get scared thinking about it. Because that could be my family and me. Once you experience something so many times and continue to be exposed to it, the fear becomes a when, not if it'll happen. What am I supposed to do? I listen, I get shot. I resist arrest; I get shot. These shootings are even more terrifying because, at some point, something very bad is going to happen. There will be a point where a group of people will have reached a boiling point, and it is not going to end well.
It's disgusting that as a perfectly legal driver, I get terrified whenever a policeman is even three cars within me because I know there's a strong chance he will follow me and pull me over. If you've never experienced it, then you won't understand. I'm the most stress-free person in the world, but I cannot tell you the anxiety that I get when I'm pulled over or being followed by a policeman. Again, don't want to make it entirely a race issue, but it's something the majority of my white friends are completely oblivious to, and there's no way I can even attempt to emulate that feeling. That has to change. Neither you or I should have to feel like this. Not in America. Not in 2016. This starts with police being held more accountable. It's laughable that you can count on one hand how many policemen have stood up and gone public in light of these shootings. That really should tell you all you need to know. Which leads into the question everyone asks.
What can we do?
How can we avoid situations like this in the future? What can we do to stop nonsense like this from happening? It's tough. I'd be lying if I told you there was an overnight solution. I'd be lying if I knew what I'm about to say was even a quarter of the way true. That's why I feel hopeless. But that shouldn't stop you from finding a way to contribute to all the terrible things that are going on in the country right now. My advice? Donate. Donate your time to the youth. Donate a few dollars here and there to charities. Stay positive. I spend my time with the youth everyday, and you'd be surprised how much your voice/words will resonate with them. If we can't change this current generation, we need to do our best with the upcoming generation. Reach out and see who needs help and if there's anything you can do. It's one thing to get fake upset about a tragedy on the internet. It's another thing to get up and make a difference. It's a joke that there is a person reading this thinking "Stick to sports, KP." At this point, that's really all we have. Accountability.
As far as a bigger, national level, we'll need black people to make more noise. Noise that can't be just written off by media. It would need to make a difference if we had a unified message, organized leaders, and active black people more involved in who we allow to run our communities, police departments, and who we allow to represent us in Congress and local officials. Somebody with staying power that me, you, the youth, our elders can look at and not just scoff at what they say. Will that fix everything? Probably not. But it is a start. Think about it, who are the leaders of our generation? Rappers and athletes? How sad is it that they think by firing off a tweet that they are making a difference. We need a leader to step up, someone that understands our laws have it channeled the right way, and I really believe that'll have a significant impact.