To my readers: This may be considered to be a political post, so if you aren’t in a frame of mind to read this type of commentary, just skip this one. I’ll go back to photos and inspiring quotes later.
As someone who grew up in America’s segregated South, came of age during the Civil Rights Movement, and later became a civil rights investigator for the government (trained in Washington, D.C. at the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; yes, I’m laying it all out), I am deeply disturbed by what is going on in my country today.
When I was young, I was naive enough to think that we would progress to the point where we would not have to see rioting or protesting in the streets or hear allegations of police brutality again. As I write this, marchers are on the streets of New York City asking for justice for Eric Garner who died after being put in a chokehold (an illegal chokehold) by white police officers. Garner’s crime was selling cigarettes illegally on the street. The incident was videotaped and has been televised. It shows several police officers subduing Garner who had his hands up and was not resisting. Only one police officer was likely to be indicted because the others were offered immunity in exchange for their testimony. In spite of the video evidence, the grand jury voted not to indict the officer in question. For readers not familiar with the grand jury process, this means the officer will not be charged in Garner’s death and will not go to trial.
Last week we saw the violent reaction in Ferguson, Missouri when a grand jury failed to indict the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.
Today in Cleveland, Ohio a funeral was held for Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy who was shot by a white policeman. The boy was in a park, with a toy gun that shot plastic pellets. The person who called to report this told the dispatcher that the gun likely was a toy, but the police officer shot the boy within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene. Results of the grand jury proceedings in this case will be released soon.
What is happening here? Why are the police responding with such excessive force? Why do they shoot first and ask questions later, when it’s too late? Why are police forces around the country, even in small towns, also becoming militarized, with military weapons and military vehicles? These are disturbing developments.
I hope that out of this mess comes a much-needed dialogue about race, about police brutality and the use of excessive force, about the dignity of all people, about due process of law and equality under the law for all people, and about justice.
For the record, I am white.