By Isaiah Joseph
When I was a child, I remember my heart would begin to race with fear at the sight of a police officer. Cops simply intimidated me partly because of the enormous size difference between me and them yet, mainly because of the gun that sat right on their waist.
My mom would always tell me, “Isaiah, if you haven’t done anything, you don’t need to be afraid.” When she would tell me this, my fear would begin to dissipate with the realization that I am a good kid, I haven’t done anything wrong, and that gun that sat right on their waste is there simply to protect me and not harm me. Fast-forward to the present. As I replay the same scene in my head of me as a child expressing my fear of police to my mother, I cannot envision it panning out the way it did. I simply cannot envision my mother having the same response that she did years ago. In fact, I honestly cannot envision her having any response to my fear at all.
Under today’s unfortunate circumstances, she can’t assure me that as an African-American male, if I haven’t done anything wrong, I will be just fine. She can’t assure me that because I am a good child with a firm head on my shoulders, that I will be living after being encountered by a police officer in the future. She can’t assure me that I will be still living to see another day if pulled over for maybe a busted taillight, an unsignaled lane change, or any natural mistake that I may make. She can’t assure me that that very gun that sits on that policeman’s waist is to protect me and not to unjustifiably harm me, end my life, my future, and eradicate any lasting contact with this world.
That is the severity of this situation. That is why we anguish, grieve, and hurt. That is why we protest. We do so because of the unfortunate lives of many that were taken as a result of police officers who simply did not know their job, their place, moreover themselves.
My main focus in writing this article is to try to clear a glaring divide that is growing within the country, a divide that is stemming from varying viewpoints, moreover lack of true understanding. When we say Black Lives Matter, we certainly aren’t saying other lives don’t. The Black Lives Matter movement represents something much deeper than what many shallowly presume it to be.
When we say black lives matter, we look back deep into our history. We look back at generations upon generations. We recognize the toils that African-Americans have faced since day one as a result of our skin color. We recognize how we were always a target, from slavery to segregation just because of our skin color, our roots. Now we find ourselves becoming a target again as a result of this very thing and we cannot just sit back and watch the situation escalate. We simply cannot risk another life lost. Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the list goes on and on and on and on. When does it stop? I call it “adversity by default.” We unfortunately are already susceptible to adversity as a result of the skin that we were born. When you are considered a threat as a result of the skin you were born with, a significant problem is hastening. When your external appearance is given unnecessary weight causing people to believe you are someone that you aren’t, a significant problem is growing.
The truth of the matter is, many cops lack empathy, and fail to realize who they are and what they stand for. We recognize that all cops aren’t bad, in fact most cops are good. The sad thing is that the reputation of cops in general is being tainted as a result of some who do not recognize the value of the badge that they wear. If you use hatred, racism, prejudice, and false stereotypes to unjustifiably take the lives of others, you are not fit to wear that badge and tarnish the name for other cops. You see, when your mind is poisoned with a negative perception or stereotype about someone, your mind will wrongfully justify that person’s actions to support your misconception and support the stereotype.
Furthermore, these shallow stereotypes provide false reasoning for all of that person’s actions, big and small. These stereotypes are toxic and a danger to society. These stereotypes have contaminated the minds of these cops to the point where they think that if an African-American male is reaching for his wallet, he is reaching for a gun. These wrongful stereotypes paint a picture to these cops that any small movement by a black male being arrested is a threat to the their safety when all in all, the guy being arrested is simply moving because he is struggling to breath or in severe pain due to the cop’s excessive force. The Police profession is not for people who have these contaminated minds and are poisoned by these unjustifiable labels yet the profession is filled with many which has led to tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.
I’ve heard defenders of these guilty cops say, “They were just tired and wanted to go home, and therefore they used poor judgment.” Or “They felt they were in danger so they had to act accordingly.” If you use exhaustion, being intimidated by a misconceived threat, or any other excuse to justify you going beyond your orders and taking away someone’s father, brother, cousin, sister, mother, or aunt who did not threaten your life at all, you do not deserve to wear that badge. There are no excuses with a position of that much power.
Many say that all lives matter, yet question why we become tired and anguish over the lost life of one. Yes, all lives matter, therefore the unjustifiable loss of even one life by the hands of a cop who is supposed to “protect”, is one too many. That is why the recent unfortunate losses of Philando Castro and Alton Sterling has resulted in so much emotion from coast to coast and beyond. We do not plan to fight fire with fire which is another misconception. The recent losses of the five police officers in Dallas is NOT something the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole condones. Just as the cops who are guilty of murder shouldn’t tarnish the reputation of all cops, the unfortunate loss of the five lost Dallas cops shouldn’t be tagged to the Black Lives Matter movement nor should it take attention away from the recent losses of Castro and Sterling. That will only stimulate further divide and a build a larger wall. A wall that is not healthy and toxic to us as a nation as it hinders us from joining forces together against hate.
The Black Lives Matter Movement does NOT at all desire a race war. This simply isn’t even a war at all. It is simply a stand against hate and a stand for justice. Nothing more, nothing less.