I have tried to avoid writing a blog about this because there are so many good ones out there, but I feel more compelled than ever to make my opinions known. Yesterday, I sat through a sermon from a pastor in south city St. Louis. While his intentions were good and genuine, in my honest opinion, he missed the point regarding recent events in St. Louis. I also work at a bank where many of my fellow co-workers miss the point, and that’s frustrating to me. So, this blog is intended for those who don’t really get it- who think that the protest are pointless, who think that the officers were justified, who think that its okay to execute unarmed men. You need more information, and I’m here to serve.
I don’t have a son yet, but when/if I do, this is what I would tell him. “You are not a criminal. You are a man with dignity. And you deserve respect”. Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Michael Brown, Vonderrick Meyers- all of these men where tragically gunned down by police who suffered from what I will call the “criminal complex”. The “Criminal Complex” is the ideology that black people, especially black men, are insidious criminals. Now I realize that this is not how every cops thinks, however I’m convinced that there is a disproportionate number who do.
I don’t blame the officers completely. They are pawns in a greater system of oppression that has plagued and ravaged the black community since the advent of slavery so many years ago. There is a problem, and Ferguson was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. If you do your research, you would learn that there is a disproportionate number of black and brown people in the prison system relative to whites and other races. But the statistics of violent and non violent crimes are generally equal among blacks and whites.
So the question remains why are there more black and brown folk incarcerated? The answer- the “criminal complex”. Policing practices in poor neighborhoods have become atrocious. Nonviolent, minor offenses are often met with severe legal punishment (usually incarceration). And once a person is convicted of an offense, he or she is trapped in a vicious cycle of invisible punishment, where a vast majority can never re-enter mainstream society again. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, details the ugliness of this whole process. I encourage everyone to read her work. To those who think that the officers actions were justified, let me ask you this- “Does it bother you that over 5000 American civilians have been killed by police, which is vastly more than the number of soldiers lost in the Iraq war?” Does the following chart from the Business Insider alarm you?: Every other major country in the world has a significantly lower number of civilians killed by police per year than the United States. Why has the United States police force become so militarized? They are treating civilians like terrorists- like criminals. And at the receiving end of all this is the black and brown community. Is this truly just? To my black son- in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., allow justice to rain down like water in your heart, and righteousness like a mighty stream. Use your life a beacon of light to drive away the darkness that so plagues our country. Fear not, for the Lord is with you! Stay tuned for Pt. 2.