It’s happened again.
On the 1 year anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death, a black man who died from injuries sustained in police custody, Baltimore police have shot and wounded a 14 year old African-American boy carrying a toy gun.
On Wednesday, plainclothes officers began chasing 14 year-old Dedric Colvin after they saw him with a BB gun. Police say the officers opened fire, striking him as he ran away. Colvin’s mother said Dedric was shot in the leg and in the shoulder–he’s thankfully expected to recover. This incident also comes 2 days after Cleveland officials agreed to pay 6 MILLION DOLLARS to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old African-American boy who was fatally shot by police in what was for all intents and purposes, a drive by shooting, for playing with a toy pellet gun in a park.
Though the BB gun does appear very lifelike–a replica of a semi-automatic handgun–police’s claims that they had no way of knowing whether the gun was fake or not are being contested by eyewitness accounts that say that “[Colvin] turned towards them but the wasn’t turning the gun towards them, and I’m positive I heard him say, ‘It’s not real,'” a witness who identified himself only as “Bryan” told a local NBC affiliate. “He said, ‘It’s not real. It’s not real,’ and that quick, the male officer shot him twice in the leg.”
This report from the eyewitness makes plain that the officers responded too quickly. Local activist and artist Kwame Rose told The Independent: “This speaks to the fact that a young black male was never given the chance to be innocent. He was automatically criminalised and automatically feared by the police.” Mr. Rose addressed the need for “heavy investment” in de-escalation training tactics for the Baltimore police. “Shooting should never be the first action….The only difference between this case and the Tamir Rice case…is that Dedric ran–which probably saved his life.”
Another call in addition to de-escalation training for Baltimore Police has come from Baltimore residents, who called for police reforms to confront “institutionalized racism”. Both topics are key to ensuring that travesties like this do not occur again. This obviously should not only be a localized effort, but instead needs to spread to the rest of America so that there is never another Tamir Rice or Dedric Colvin case. President Obama met with civil rights leaders and Black Lives Matter activists from across the country a couple months ago in February to discuss organization of reforms and the issue of police brutality. Many leaders commented, saying they believed the meetings to have been very productive. However, Aislinn Pulley, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago, declined the invitation to the meeting, saying that she believed the meeting was nothing more than a photo-op for the President. In an editorial for TruthOut.org, Pulley wrote: “I do not feel that a handshake with the President is the best way for me to honor Black History Month or the Black freedom fighters whose labor laid the groundwork for the historic moment we are living in…We assert that true revolutionary and systemic change will ultimately only be brought forth by ordinary working people, students and youth–organizing, marching and taking power from the corrupt elites.” Exactly what actions are involved in that “taking power from the elites” were not stated, but Pulley’s words remain true and striking. Until the people stand up and unite and send a continuous message to those in power, I fear that the systemic racism going on in our country and our police forces in particular, will not be addressed, but instead will have lipservice paid to them without any real specific change.
This is why the Black Lives Matter movement is important, and why it must continue, and why it must gain more and more followers, regardless of race. We have to stand united against a system that is becoming more and more akin to a police state. The officers in the case of Dedric Colvin knew better–they did, and if it had been a White kid with a BB gun instead of a Black kid, I believe that the officers would have found better means for dealing with the individual in question. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has discussed real police reform in his campaign. He has called for police transparency and has led a charge to “de-militarize the police”–the rest of the candidates stand firm with the status quo of police brutality and systemic, institutionalized racism.
I believe the Police must take drastic steps in correcting itself before any more of these instances happen. They have to do anything within their power–one idea would be to enlist help from the Police departments of other countries…Norway’s Police, for instance haven’t resorted to killing any suspects in a number of years. Why is it so inconceivable to think outside the box in this way in order to combat the many problems facing our defective Police forces? Why isn’t there a conference held with all the major Police chiefs of all the major American cities with Black Lives Matter protesters and organizers? Has the rift and spirit of enmity between these entities become so entrenched and immovable that we are deliberately looking away from the most crucial actions of peacekeeping and reconciliation? The attitude of both of these groups has become so militant and so stubborn that they are both becoming part of the problem. Why is a meeting with the President more important than a meeting with the Police departments themselves? I don’t believe that any progress will be made in the fight for equality until the tensions and grudges are dissolved between these two developing factions. I call for a respectful and productive spirit in which these issues can be hashed out and dealt with–no more name-calling and passing the buck.
That being said, I believe the Black Lives Matter protesters are right. And I know that they are angry. I’m angry too, that an issue this important and divisive hasn’t been taken care of and put to bed. Some say the issue will never fully be resolved–but I say it’s that attitude combined with unchecked anger and aggression that will prove that self-fulfilling prophecy. We must remember that we are all brothers and sisters, and that when one of us bleeds or is mistreated, we all suffer from. Black Lives Matter, and it’s time everyone joined together in peaceful demonstration to make this dream a reality. Look up Black Lives Matter protests and organizations in your area–if there isn’t one, start one, or find someone who will. Write to your legislators, try to organize conferences. Get in touch with the people who have power to make sweeping legislative change, and then act on your own to sow the seeds of immediate, local change. We are all a part of this together, whether we put effort toward making a change or not. Making the decision to do nothing, is still an action–just one that doesn’t serve anything. Make a change, make a choice to be a part of this voice. Together, the people united will never be divided.
Love. Peace. Unity.