As a nation we have stood aside, turned a blind-eye, or out-rightly sanctioned brutality against people of color for far too long. Black men have suffered the horrors of this more than most.
The visual sharing of this terror – along with the subsequent communal turning away – began with the acquittal of the officers who brutally beat Rodney King. As we marched forward to the murder of George Floyd, nearly 30 years after Rodney King, it seems only two things have tangibly changed.
First, the brutality is now visually captured and shared (though there are likely many more incidents never documented). Second, the murders (they are no longer “only” beatings) followed by the acquittal of the police officers (if they are even charged) are now the norm.
If we are a civilized society, we can no longer abide by the current policing policies and practices. Yes, there have been some steps forward. But they have not been enough. Policing policies must robustly change and those changes must be legally binding. Changes must be concrete from restricting chokeholds and changing the standards for the use of deadly force, to implementing bias training and trainings that de-escalate community-based conflicts as well as prepares officers to reduce the use of excessive force among their own ranks.
But, binding police officers to their duties without building empathy will never work. Why not implement a formalized and ongoing sabbatical system, requiring officers to work in community settings for extend periods of time before rotating back into uniform? We, all of us, must help citizens and officers experience each other as fellow humans and not as adversaries.
Write to your local police chief and the official who supervises the chief. Demand tangible, legally binding changes. Then write again and again and again. Do not stop until your police department and those of the towns around you adopt new legally binding policies – policies that create openings for the human heart while setting new standards of accountability.
I write this as a white woman, knowing all the privilege that accords me. I also write this as a woman who experienced the brutality of a white police officer who terrorized me and my sisters. I have felt a foot on my chest, been bound by handcuffs, felt the grasp of hands at my throat, and known a gun to my head. So too have I heard the bragging of his vile exploits that terrorized black men, brutalized gay men, and violated women of all colors. And yet, he was allowed to wear his badge until he retired.
Experience tells me, as it tells communities of color, what we have seen in the videos is but a portion of what has been suffered.
No more #GeorgeFloyd.