"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As a child, I had dreams of becoming a police officer. Who wouldn't want to be the brave hero running toward danger, fighting bad guys, and saving people in need? At some point in my life, this idolization changed. Why do I find myself fearing police officers now? Even in the thought of being in a dangerous situation, I question whether I would involve law enforcement.
I have been wanting to write on this account since the events in Ferguson, and have had trouble finding my voice even after a similar incident happened, just North of my community. Inside a Wal-Mart of Beavercreek, Ohio, the police were called on John Crawford III, who was said to be waving a gun at innocent people including children. After being shot and killed by law enforcement, Crawford was discovered with a BB gun that he picked from a shelf inside of the store. Tapes show no evidence of the toy being pointed at anyone, and the witness later recanted his statement of Crawford's intentions. The witness is now being accused by the public of swatting Crawford.
It would be silly if I did not mention that Crawford shared a characteristic with Michael Brown, who's death by police sparked the recent protests in Ferguson MO, and with Timothy Thomas, who's death by police started the protests of Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine, Ohio 2001. Crawford, like Brown and Thomas, was a young black male.
After Brown's death, I would often see the following articles: 12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson, Ten Things White People Can Do About Ferguson Besides Tweet, the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, and criticisms on the hashtag #alllivesmatter. The suggestions provided in these articles are filled with insightful information, and regardless of skin color, should be followed by everyone. Though because of the world we live in, filled with unfortunate cases of racial division, the titles of these articles suggest an acceptance of continual racial division. Below is a excerpt of an article written by Michael Bell, who's son was also killed by the police.
"Yes, there is good reason to think that many of these unjustifiable homicides by police across the country are racially motivated. But there is a lot more than that going on here. Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity... In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified... if police on duty believe they can get away with almost anything, they will act accordingly." (Michael Bell, politico.com)
Of all of the creations that have come from the events in Ferguson, the short film #AmeriCAN (below) is by far my favorite. Follow a father/police officer who, as a product of his environment, abuses his authority. When this abuse leads him to a tragic personal emergency, see how the community that he failed to protect chooses to react.
I am always one for raising questions rather than providing answers. I do not know the solution to the current racial divide, or how to hold police officers more accountable for their actions. However, I do know that I can pass on the two important pieces of personal safety below.
Filming the police, or documenting arrests, has proven to provide little assistance in the courtroom. Even in cases of direct abuse, and/or the cause of death to civilians. However, it does continue to build public awareness, and to keep officers in check especially if they know they are being recorded.
Do not talk to the police. It is a police officer's job to make arrests. Police officers are trained to question citizens in order to find any reason they can in order to make an arrest. Follow the flowcharts below, ANYWHERE, not only regarding a festival.
Hopefully these thoughts will continue to raise awareness, and positive change for the future.