Our political leaders must work to solve police racism
Change the culture that makes police view Black people as inherently “bad”
By Duvalier Malone
These were the words that accompanied the police murder of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man:
“That looks like a bad dude.”
Terence Crutcher was not a bad dude.
He was merely the victim of car troubles. And then, he became the victim of the Tulsa police officers who figured he was a “bad dude”.
Why was he a “bad dude”? What is it about a Black man without a weapon having normal run-of-the-mill auto issues that makes a police officer automatically tag him as a “bad dude”?
We all know what it is. It’s because he was Black; and if you refuse to acknowledge this simple fact, then you are part of the problem.
In this country, Black lives have historically been undervalued. Our value as 3/5 of a human being during slavery set the precedent for our portrayal as “less than human”. We are considered subhuman, substandard. Not fully capable of love, affection, pain or human rights: Those things that might classify us as a full human being.
On the surface, America is not the same country that destroyed Black families and imposed slavery on an entire people. On the surface, this country has changed.
But although it’s easy to see that things are different on the surface, there is a vein that’s barely hidden—an undercurrent—that threatens to expose the racial horrors that this country has never truly addressed.
Terence Crutcher is not the only Black person that was unjustly killed by police this month. He’s just one that made headlines and received a twitter hashtag.
#TerenceCrutcher. It fits right in with the rest. #MichaelBrown. #EricGarner. #JohnCrawford. #TamirRice. #WalterScott.
#FreddieGray. #SandraBland. There are many Black men, Black women and even Black children who are considered “bad dudes” by the police. The list doesn’t stop.
But where do WE stop? When do we stop cheapening the value of a Black life?
A Black life is so worthless that it has become cultural in police forces across this country. Last year, it was widely reported that Florida police officers used the mugshots of Black suspects for shooting practice.
This means that the problem is systemic! There are probably even some Black officers that have undergone this training, and have been brainwashed into believing that when they see a Black face, he’s inherently a “bad dude”.
Perhaps the Black officer who shot Keith Lamont Scott in Charleston, NC was required to shoot at images of Black people during his training. We don’t know for sure; and we may never know, due to the fraternal brotherhood of police officers that teaches them to protect one another at all costs and to never incriminate a fellow officer.
If we never stop to acknowledge that this problem stems from an ingrained racist culture that teaches our police that Black people are “bad dudes”, then we will never solve this problem.
We need our political leaders now, more than ever.
Why do I keep reiterating that we don’t have a seat at the table? Because our political leaders should be in front, addressing—both verbally and with policy—the embedded racism in our police departments.
Our political leaders should be in front of this, working to save the lives of the communities they represent. But many of them don’t, because we don’t hold them accountable.
We don’t have a seat at the table.
How many more Black lives are going to be extinguished right before our very eyes before we demand more from our political leaders?
We can’t be reactive when this happens.
The truth is, Black people are being killed by police all the time. It’s just that many of these crimes don’t hit social media.
But we can’t wait for a twitter hash-tag before we decide to get involved. We have to get proactive, and not only demand justice when there’s a hash-tag. We must demand justice at all times.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has taken a stand, and he didn’t wait for the next hashtag. He was “ahead of the curve”, because he recognized a sad truth that many of us refuse to face: Terence Crutcher will not be the last Black life taken by police.
There will be more. Until this system changes, there will be more. This is why we must demand justice all the time.
This time, it was Terence Crutcher. Tomorrow it could be your mother. Your father. Your brother. Your sister. Your child. You. Me.
This could affect your community next. How many more Black people have to die before we demand that our political leaders stand up and seek justice on our behalf?
It’s time for us to hold them accountable.