I’ve been wanting to write something about the epidemic of police shootings of black men in this country. I’m finding it really difficult. I’m completely overwhelmed. What do I, a middle-aged white woman, have to add to this conversation?
First I want to say I’m heart-broken, and I’m sorry. I am heart-broken for the lives lost-the fathers, sons, brothers, lovers, friends who are gone and for those who continue on without them. I’m sorry to all the mothers of black boys who have always known that their babies were not safe out there, that the police force could not be counted on to serve and protect their precious children. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.
How could this happen, we ask? It must have been a crazy, isolated incident. A bad apple, a misunderstanding, a fluke. Only then it happens again. And again. I know it’s hard to keep track, but over 100 unarmed African Americans were killed by police in 2015. And at least 15 have been killed since Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem in protest less than a month ago. So you have to stand up and say, no. It’s not a few bad apples. The barrel is rotten. Repeated shootings of unarmed black men are caused by police culture. It’s really that simple. And we can do better. We need better training, better salaries, and body cams, and we need to clean house. We need to do it now. Men and women who are unprepared or unwilling to diffuse difficult situations need to find other occupations that do not involve firearms. They need to do it today. And the organizations they work for need to see to it.
So what can I do? I can support Black Lives Matter. I can do that. And I can call you out if you are one of those people still yelling ALL LIVES MATTER! I can’t believe there are still STILL people out there who seem genuinely surprised that this is offensive to those of us mourning the loss of innocent souls. I’m not sure I can get through to you. Do you know what you sound like when you say ALL LIVES MATTER? It’s like if I showed up at your mother’s funeral, went to the front of the church, pushed the preacher out of the way, grabbed the mike and yelled DEATH IS SAD FOR EVERYONE! That’s how bad you sound. Just stop it.
I wonder, now that my boys are almost grown, if I did right by them by teaching them to respect police officers. I taught them that these were people that put their lives on the line every day to help us. That they were heroes just for putting on the uniform. I believed it. And all of my interactions with police officers (and as a boring middle-aged white women, there haven’t been that many) have been professional exchanges. Pleasant even, to the extent that getting a speeding ticket can be pleasant. All of them except one.
It’s been almost a year now, and it still bothers me. I think mostly it bothers me that I didn’t report it. I wish I had. It was around 10:30 at night, and I was driving my son home after a concert. I was on a well-travelled but poorly lit road, and I hit a roadblock. There were a couple of cars in front of me, and I waited patiently for my turn to be cleared of whatever. I left my high beams on. Look, I am really sorry I left my high beams on. I forgot I had them on. I can see how that would be annoying to someone conducting a roadblock. When I reached the stop, a short, blond man in uniform approached my car. He took his super Krypton powered flashlight and shone it directly in my eyes.
“Does the light hurt your eyes?” he asked?
“Yes,” I yelped, trying to shield my face.
“Well, now you know how it feels,” he said pointing to my lights and waving me through.
“Oh my God,” said my son. “What an asshole.”
So thank you Rankin County Police Department for preparing my son to deal with men in blue in the real world. Next time one of his friends calls you pigs, he probably won’t defend you like I had taught him to.
This man purposefully inflicted actual pain on me because I annoyed him. I was temporarily blinded, but I drove off anyway, which was potentially dangerous. Is this the man you want holding a gun on an unarmed black man when things get tense? Is it? Do you think this was the first or the last time he used his power to ruin someone’s evening because he could? To say he acted unprofessionally is not good enough. Because I am willing to bet money that his colleagues and his superiors are well aware of just what kind of man he is. This was not some sociopath skillfully preying on unsuspecting motorists while his superiors were none the wiser, this was a man who is clearly and publicly ill equipped to handle the badge. It is the responsibility of our police departments to not hand people like this guns. We must hold them accountable.