Disclaimer: This essay was written and was first published on Wattpad in 2020 from my “A Black Opinion” blog. Therefore, it will not acknowledge the current state of the world. Regardless, this essay has an important message that could be a logical step forward for the world to make the changes needed to address the issue of racism. The same issue that has stained our world for far too long.
It was either the guns they keep in their holsters, the screaming sirens, or the growling German Shepherds they have on leash. But when I was a little kid, I was scared of the police.
It was not like I was a guilty person hoping to outrun the police. I was Miss goody-two-shoes. A child who obeyed the laws, and a fan of justice. I did not have any bad experiences with the police. At least, I don’t remember if I had.
Yet I was scared of them.
Perhaps that fear stemmed from my Jamaican background. Jamaica is a wonderful vacation spot where you can enjoy a day at the beach, listen to reggae while you eat smoked jerk chicken and take a refreshing sip of a Pina Colada spiced with rum. Despite all of its beauty, it has some sore spots. Criminal activity is common, which is why every house has a tall gate, or a barbwire fence, and a couple of dogs that will either bite your fingers off or scare you away with ruthless barking.
Even though I was a scared little girl, that phase did not last. As I grew up, I moved countries. I met police officers who were nice, protective, and were good at doing their jobs. I’m not sure if it was because they were Canadians, or that I was an immigrant who they were being kind to. Regardless, that fear I had of the police faded, and was replaced with genuine curiosity. As a person who is interested in justice, law and social issues, it was not hard for me to come up with questions for police officers. When I was in high school, I always found the time to chat with them after their presentations. It is through by engaging with them; I have lost all fear.
However, it seems that fear has resurfaced. After years of hearing of police brutality, I finally got to “see” it in a video posted on Facebook. The horror I felt to see the knee of a white police officer, pinning the neck of a black man, was so overwhelming that I could not bring myself to watch it. Another black person is dead, and will be buried with thousands of others who lost their lives to the police.
Some will say that it is justified. Police are allowed to shoot, kneel, and perform other acts of violence towards a person whom they believe is a threat and is breaking the law. The law they are sworn to uphold. Trust me, there are Blacks who deserve to go to jail for their crimes.
What about Botham Jean, who was shot by a police officer who mistakenly thought he was trespassing in her house, when in fact it was his house eating ice cream?
What about 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot two times for playing with a toy gun in an airport?
What about 32-year-old Philando Castile who was shot in his car (while his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter watched) for having a licensed firearm, when he told the police that he was not reaching for it but his car license?
These are three of many more blacks who were wrongfully and unnecessarily killed. Police are by law allowed to arrest someone if they believe they have sufficient grounds for an arrest. But if the person is not a threat, police should not be reaching for the gun just because they feel like it. In the case of Jean, the female police officer should have had a conversation where Jean could prove to her that it was his house. In the case of Rice, all they had to do was order the boy to put the gun down, while they examined the gun to determine if it was real or not. As for Castile, the police should have either believed his word, or have one police watch the passenger side to make sure he was not getting the gun.
We can talk all day about what the police should have done to prevent these incidents, but the truth is, each of these incidents were caused because of systemic racism. For years, blacks have been unfairly profiled as dangerous and aggressive. It may be true for some, for the majority it’s not. As a result, white police officers tend to not give any chances for blacks to explain. Instead, they are doing what they see at face value, not realizing that they are taking the situation out of context.
We may have made some progress in closing the gap between the Whites and the Blacks, but if we do not uproot the racist system that society built six centuries ago, I fear racism will remain for another six hundred years into the future.