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No More Distractions

Updated on December 9, 2014

This anger and unrest is not just about one dead child or one acquittal

Americans are taught to respect the police, even Americans of color. We are taught that they are there to protect us, conditioned to believe and agree with them. We train and pay these people to do this. The amount we pay is probably not enough, but the job does come with a special authority that isn’t receivable outside of law enforcement or the military.

This authority only holds as long as the trust holds. We all might have a hard time believing that a loved one can do something wrong but we also know most people have at least one person that will miss them, even criminals. So loved ones can commit crimes and criminals sometimes get shot. This makes us sad but it is a truth that we must deal with. But what of a loved one killed when they have done nothing to warrant death? What are we to say then? Tragedies happen of course. Misunderstandings are an unfortunate truth of life. But when a tragedy is repeated multiple times we, as a nation, are supposed to start looking for answers right? What do you do if it’s not being looked into? What do you do if it keeps happening to other people, to other’s loved ones that aren’t deserving? (whatever that means) What if the majority of the people being killed look a lot like one particular group of people? And the ones doing the killing are seen as protectors and people continue to not look into these deaths.

At some point you stop being sad.

At some point the trust leaves.

At some point you’ve had enough; others like you have had enough.

This is what has happened in Ferguson and in New York. This is what the unrest is about. Not one dead innocent, every dead innocent. Not one unjust officer, every unjust officer. Not one fed up community, every fed up community.

Despite the proportionality of the deaths, this isn’t just a colored issue

Or a mental health issue, as there have been several cases of unjust deaths resulting from a deadly mixture of frustration and ignorance. But it’s not just about individual events. Once the trust has left, once sadness turns to anger, once people have had enough, they rebel. Mobs form, destruction happens; frustration is released in ways that aren’t helpful for anybody. But that is the nature of frustration. It boils and bubbles until it erupts all over the place, uncontrolled and widespread. It disrupts the way of life. It brings attention to the issue but it also catches those undeserving in the chaos.

Anger can make anyone a hypocrite.

Now granted, I have not been to a demonstration nor do I know what is in the minds of others but from what I’ve seen I don’t believe the purpose of the demonstrations are to cause harm. But this frustration will continue until the cause is dealt with. And this frustration will spill over, harming undeserving others.

This is not an attack on all police officers

Yes, the African American community as a whole is a little more nervous around law enforcement than Caucasian individuals. No, this nervousness is not always justified. Yes, there are good police officers.

But not all are. Officers that don’t care about those of color, officers that actively hate those of color, officers that abuse their power at the expense of other’s well being; these are the people that are the immediate goal. I am not in law enforcement but I would hope that officers who do care about the well being of those under their protection would have this similar desire to remove those harmful individuals. To remove those who would abuse the power of the uniform and sew distrust in the community.

This is not just about individual police officers

I think everybody can agree that the media helps shape the way individuals are seen. The way they have chosen to report crime to the American people is atrocious. This is exacerbated by the fact that they know what they are doing and they still choose to do it anyway.

They have done us a two-fold disservice.

First, reporting black crime in a proportionally skewed manner causes everyone, even people of color, to perceive darker skinned individuals as more threatening regardless of if they have done anything to warrant excess suspicion. Your brain is constantly and simultaneously receiving, analyzing, and predicting what is and will happen around you. Your brain uses previous knowledge to do this and it does a large part of it subconsciously. So, if an individual is constantly reminded of the threat of attack, like the media is prone to do, and our mental picture of a threatening individual includes race, which the media has helped to include, then when we are around an individual who has similar characteristics to what we think a criminal looks like, we are more prone to perceive their actions as hostile. Even if they aren’t.

The second disservice is that Americans don’t perceive casually dressed white individuals as criminals, even if signs may say they are. Americans have developed such a tunnel vision for the black criminal that we forget to look out for the white criminal. We forget that the majority of violent crime is intraracial. Despite the fear of black males, whites are 6 times more likely to be killed by another white person then a black person.

Removing the race qualification from our mental picture of a criminal is also what this movement is about. Black people are not boogey men. They are just people that have been demonized by the media.

We can do this

Now I realize that race is a very big issue in this country. I realize that it can make individuals angry and/or uncomfortable, but it needs to be talked about. It needs to become an issue to be solved and not an issue to be avoided. Avoidance gets you more moments like this. It gets you more anger. It gets you more bodies. It gets you more riots and more imprisonment and more pain on both sides. But if we are going to talk about this issue, we cannot get distracted by those who would try to divide us. Yes, some black people are criminals but they have nothing to do with this movement. This moment is felt strongest by those of color but it is not just a black issue. The black community is angry at how long this has continued but we do not hate all police. Many police officers are good individuals but that hasn’t stopped horrible and lethal accidents from occurring regularly.

I think if we can all get past the needless distractions we will see that most of us want the same things. We want to feel safe about those sworn to protect us. We want crime to be prevented where it can. We want police officers to be able to go home to their families every night. We want not to fear the looming threat of a highly visible other; be it people with colored skin or people in blue uniforms. And finally, we want children to outlive their parents and parents to come home to their children.

These things are not beyond us. Easing hatred can go farther than even our robust and prolific imagination can take us. We can all learn from each other and grow but we can’t do that while living in two separate worlds.

Taking that next step towards becoming one united people; that is what this movement is about.

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