It has been a little over a year since the murder of Michael Brown and one year exactly of the death of Darrien Hunt at the hands of Utah Police and we have seen the #BlackLivesMatter movement rise from the ashes of the gun smoke. I am ready to never see a hashtag followed by a name–a black person’s name at that. And as my contribution, I want to dissect the latest piece of violence towards black bodies to hit Deseret News in the form of one incredibly misguided article, “My view: Use of force debate should recognize the trauma officers face daily,” published on July 26th, 2015.
First, a disclaimer: I am a light skinned, woman of color. I know that police will react differently with me than they would with my brother, who is darker skinned. I also have other attributes that society rewards with the “normal” label: I am able bodied, I am heterosexual, I speak English, and have a computer.
I strive to be an intersectional feminist; and it is with that intersectionality in mind that I read an article by a white, feminist lawyer, explaining away police brutality towards black bodies as something that should be looked at from the angle of Police trauma.
The article states that police suffer from occupational damage inflicted on them “almost daily.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor, being a police officer doesn’t even crack the top 10 in the list of most dangerous jobs–it comes in at number 14, behind taxi drivers, fishers, and garbage collectors. So, why is there only a police epidemic? If police trauma is the reason for the increased number of murders of black bodies, how come there isn’t an epidemic of fisher shoot outs? Or of roofer gun incidents? There are so many jobs where people suffer trauma that they are not specifically trained to handle (unlike cops) where they manage to not kill people every day.
The culprit is not police trauma–it is the overt racism that causes people to be killed over broken tail lights, shopping at Wal-Mart, having baggy pants, cosplaying, selling cigarettes, missing a front license plate–we could be here forever. As of this article, the death toll caused by police officers in 2015 was at 740, most of them black. In 2014, that number was 1106, again, mostly black.
The thing is, we can do so much better. We can expect more of ourselves. We can do better, by not saying that there “are no winners” in police shootings. Coming out alive, and having paid leave sounds like a winning situation.
We can be better by demanding that police offers who have killed another human being be fired. People can choose to work as a police officer–black and brown people have no choice over the color of their skin.
We can do better by focusing our energies and resources on the trauma experienced by black and brown families at the loss of a family member. With the increasing number of videos proving the innocence of the murdered, we can do better by protecting those who are being persecuted.
We can do better by allowing the voices of those who suffer to have a space where they can express their lived experiences–not by minimizing their experiences as a “distorted Hollywood version of events.”
We can do better by asking ourselves from where we stand–do the hurt feelings of those behind the trigger need to be the focus of our attention? If those in power are more concerned with the feelings of those who kill, in spite of training and swearing to protect them, then who can we expect to hold them accountable?
At the end of the day, we have to expect more from ourselves. We have to expect more from the cream of the Mormon progressive crop. A Juris Doctor or a PhD does no good if we continue to use our voices to oppress and refuse to acknowledge the correction from those who are suffering.
We could do better- we simply choose not to.