Being youthful, black and male should not be a crime, but Freddie Gray’s death is Baltimore is the latest in a string of police assaults on unarmed African American men. Before that, just in the last few months, there was Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, John Crawford in Dayton, Ohio, Ezell Ford in Florence, California, Dante Parker in Victorville, California, Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, NY, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, Rumain Brisban in Phoenix, Arizona, Jerame Reid in New Jersey, Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin, and the list goes on. There is a pattern here that black people have always known about but that now even white folks are beginning to see. Young black men are being profiled, harassed, victimized and all too often murdered by the police who are supposed to protect the public and dispense equal justice to all.
What is the remedy? Body cameras on cops are a good idea. Here are some other initiatives that make sense:
- · establishing special prosecutors whose sole job would be investigating police misconduct (ending the chummy relationship between law enforcement and District Attorneys)
- · hiring more women on the police force (females tend to be better at negotiation and de-escalating confrontations that men)
- · de-militarizing departments that have become tooled up with tanks, drones and wartime technology
- · providing better training to enable police to deal with psychiatric issues as illness rather than criminal offense.
First and foremost, we must collectively admit that racism is a societal problem. We cannot just blame the police without also shouldering a portion of the responsibility for overcoming the legacy of discrimination that continues to make inequality the norm in our country. Maintaining “law and order” must do more than perpetuate a system that distributes wealth, rank and privilege to those already connected to the echelons of power and opportunity. It is up to each of us to create a future where every child has an equal chance in life. Until then, we will get the police we deserve.