By Kaelin Maloid
She can’t be older than five. She has dark brown skin, a big smile, and two big puffs. She’s wearing a too-big black shirt that says “BLACK LIVES MATTER” in all white letters. It hangs past her skinny knees. Her feet are covered in black high-tops with a grass stain on them. She holds a white poster upside down that says, “RIP Alton Sterling” as she stands amongst a crowd. The little girl looks around while she chants, “No justice, no peace! No racist, police!” Does she understand what she is saying? Do any of us?
The day after Alton Sterling’s world ended, somebody got up and made breakfast. Somebody played music as they got dressed for work or summer school. A child laughed. Somebody kneeled down in church to pray. On Twitter, he became a hashtag often coupled with #BlackLivesMatter. Protests started forming. Words were said that couldn’t be taken back. Somebody, somewhere, started making plans to kill police officers, too.
Alton Sterling, Philando Castile
“I am not worried about the people who outright say ‘I hate black people.’ I can deal with those people. What I’m concerned about is the larger majority of people that say ‘This issue does not concern me.’”
On July 8, activists in New Orleans held a protest in response to the unjust killings of Sterling, followed by Philando Castile, and they even paid homage to Eric Harris, a New Orleans native that was killed at the hands of a police officer. The above quote was taken from one of the protesters.
While police brutality is a problem, it is the murders of black people that are bringing it to attention. According to mappingpoliceviolence.com, in 2015, more than 920 people were killed by police. However, black people are three times more likely to be killed than white people by law enforcement. In addition to that, black Americans are twice as likely to be unarmed than their white counterparts when killed by the police. For every 1,000 people killed by police, only one officer is charged with a crime.
In 2015, 1 in every 3 black people killed were found to be unarmed, although many statisticians believe that the data might be higher because of under reporting.
Statistics also show that more white people are killed by police officers than black people, but that statistic is misleading; white people make up the majority of the country. Killing 24 percent of 13 percent of the population is more harmful than killing 49 percent of 62 percent, according to huffingtonpost.com.
The statistics are there. The solution, however, is not.
It’s not a Riot, It’s a Peaceful Protest
The First Amendment gives people the right to assemble peacefully. It states, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Is police brutality, not just in the case of black lives, not a grievance?
After the death of Sterling, Baton Rouge united to protest. While the pictures of them wreaking destruction and fighting circulated, it was the other pictures that told a different story, such as the pictures of protestors holding other protestors back from inciting violence. Those little known pictures would not have painted the race-fueled story the media wanted.
The word ‘riot’ was slapped onto what the protesters were doing, even while showing evidence protestors were just exercising their right. Before they could finish yelling, “No justice,” law enforcement was already ensuing there would be no peace. They lined up behind them as if prepared for war.
It looked like the world was ending.
For some it had. Sterling’s family had a lost a part of his world. Castile’s family had lost a part of theirs. Sterling’s son cried on television, made a plea for his people to unite in peace. The world heard Castile’s daughter tell her mother, “It’s okay, Mommy.”
Black lives matter.
The movement that sparks more debates than police brutality was founded in 2012 after the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. According to their mission statement, which can be found on their website, BlackLivesMatter.com, “#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes.”
It doesn’t mean black lives matter more, just that they matter too.
“While I agree that everyone’s lives are important and matter, it’s not white lives that are being threatened day to day just for living,” said Jennifer Frederick. “I support Black Lives Matter because they’re the ones that need the support. It doesn’t mean anyone else matters less to me, but that I see a problem for a group of people that I want to support.”
Others see a different point.
“I believe that All Lives Matter because God created each of us beautifully and in His image,” said Katelyn Long. “We are His most prized creation. So yes, Black Lives Matter, as do white lives and blue lives and every life.”
Whether or not you believe all lives matter or black lives matter, ending police brutality is the main fight. They’re not fighting for just black lives to matter. They’re not fighting for blue lives to not matter.
They’re not fighting police, they’re fighting police brutality.
Dalls shootings. Baton Rouge shootings.
First things first, rest in peace to the officers who have lost their lives. In Dallas, the five officers who were slain are: Lorne Ahrens; Michael Krol; Michael Smith; DART officer Brent Thompson; and Patrick Zamarripa. In Baton Rouge, the officers who were slain are: Montreal Jackson; Matthew Gerald; and Brad Garafola.
While the media want to paint these murders as a part of the BLM movement, many people are not in agreement and believe the shooters acted alone.
“I feel the BLM is separate from this act of hate,” sad Angela Forbes, Baton Rouge resident. “BLM doesn’t stand for hate and do not condone what has happened.”
Whether or not the shooters acted as BLM, one thing is for certain: the murder of police officers will not solve the injustices of police brutality.
Forbes worries that the murders of the officers will incite copycat attempts at murdering more law enforcement.
She is not the only one concerned, though. One of her friends, a member of the Baton Rouge Police Department, has expressed concern for his own safety as a police officer.
“He’s made posts throughout the week about the support his friends and family has made,” said Forbes of her friend. “He’s a good guy and just wants to go home to his family.”
DeJhane Lee, the daughter of a police officer in New Roads, is also in agreement with concern for her father’s safety, but the recent killings have not made her fear stronger.
“When my dad became a police officer, I knew what that meant,” said Lee. “So my worry is almost the same as before. Overall, I learned a few years ago that being a police officer means putting yourself in danger for the greater good and protection of the people.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and deconstructing a system built on oppression won’t be over because a police officer hugged a black child, or two notorious gangs united in Atlanta, or thousands of people went out to protest it.
Police brutality must end—but so does the murder of law enforcement officers.
“I think the shootings brought attention, be it good or bad,” Lee said. “These recent shootings from Sterling to Dallas and even today have been perfect talking points and learning points, but no one is acknowledging them as such.”
So what do we do?
Every one has a different idea.
“We as a people of color need to do more for each other,” said Emily Oliver, a Lettsworth resident. “When the world sees that we are our brothers’ keeper, it helps others to see us differently.”
A New Orleans banker, Jonathan Wilson, who spoke at a panel on police brutality said, “There’s no reason we shouldn’t work together with the police.”
Wilson also said that the community should come together and demand change in policies and change in how policies are governed.
Another activist, Rashida Govan, stated that ending police brutality started with looking into the culture of it.
“When it comes to police brutality, we need to undo the system it was seeded in,” said Govan. “ There is a culture that supports the riff faff in the system. That has to go!”
She also added that limiting interactions with systems that were trying to hold us down would make a difference, such as starting your own school. There was another step that could be taken, according to Govan:
“Hold your white counter parts accountable so that they make a damn difference instead of sitting on their ass and being silent,” said Govan.
The day after Sterling’s world ended, someone made breakfast. A child laughed. Someone else got on Twitter and made his name a hashtag. Someone turned on their favorite song and sung along as they got dressed for work or summer school. Someone else, somewhere became another victim of police brutality.