Hello Afrolatina Girl Peeps! Sorry that you haven’t heard from me in awhile but believe me when I tell you, it has been a LONG summer thus far! I’ve been dealing with among many things, family medical problems, work drama, and kitchen remodeling. When it rains, it pours, and right now I am experiencing a downpour. I am looking forward to things getting better over these next few months. I have a trip to Europe planned with my husband this summer, and I am excited about it. I hope it will be a nice reprieve from all of life’s stressors.
So Afrolatinagirl peeps I am sure you have you been keeping abreast of all the racially charged news reports that have been surfacing lately? Let’s see, there have been so many incidents that it is hard to keep track. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and the list goes on and on. With all of the violence being exhibited against people of color lately, I must say that it feels as though we are living in the 1950’s or 60’s. As a person of color, I can’t help but feel like we are collectively under siege.
This most recent incident involving teenagers at a pool party in Texas shows law enforcement again getting out of hand. Kids celebrating the end of the school year at the neighborhood pool ran into trouble when police were called to break up a fight between two older white woman and an African-American teenage girl. The fight started when the woman allegedly began harassing the black pool goers. Telling them that they needed to “go back to their section 8 homes.” Some young African-American community members were accused of trespassing and not belonging at the pool despite having pool passes.
The part of the pool escapade that is garnering the most attention has to do with the way in which one of the officers, David Eric Casebolt, handled the situation. Officer Casebolt, can be seen on video waving his gun around, yelling and cursing at teenage bystanders. Brandon Brooks, one of the few white teens in attendance, admits that he along with friends (the boys being detained in the video), gained access to the pool despite not having pool passes. In the video, you can see Officer Casebolt asking Brandon’s friends, to sit on the ground while Brandon is not detained and allowed to continue filming. At no time does the officer ask, Brandon, to take a seat. I have heard people argue that the treatment of the African-American teens had nothing to do with race. That seems hard to believe when you consider that Brandon, essentially guilty of the same offense as the young men being detained, was allowed to move around freely during the incident. Which also begs the question, what about the two white women who allegedly started the fight with their racial slurs? I have heard no mention of them. It would seem to me that the officers could have spent the majority of their time dealing with the instigators rather than trying to round up a bunch of teenagers.
Later on in the video we see Officer Casebolt become increasingly unstable as he restrains an already seated 14-year old swimsuit clad African-American girl. He proceeds to place her forcibly face down on the ground, and if that isn’t bad enough, he secures his knee firmly on her back to so that she doesn’t escape. From the video, it appears that the young girl may have been voicing her opinion about the events unfolding, but her commentary does not seem to warrant the officer’s use of force. He does not appear to be in immediate danger. The girl is not lunging towards him, nor is she brandishing a weapon. The whole encounter is disturbing on a number of levels and as a parent of a young girl it has me enraged. You can believe that if that were my daughter, I would want some answers.
The Texas pool party serves as an example of just one of many incidents making me sick to my stomach lately. As a parent, you always worry about protecting your children from outside elements. That is the nature of parenting, but now more than ever I find myself struggling with what to tell my children about the police. More importantly I struggle with how to keep them safe from a group ultimately tasked with their safety. I have heard a lot of white people say, “if you follow the rules, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about,” but if you are a person of color in the U.S., it is hard to know what rules to follow. In our society, a person of color can do everything right and still be perceived as a threat while our white counterparts are given the benefit of the doubt. Brandon is a perfect example of this. He admittedly is guilty of the same infraction as his friends, but he doesn’t suffer the same consequence for his actions. Instead, he is presumed innocent and allowed to film the incident without question. What this tells me is that no matter what the rules might be, they are different for white people. So how do you arm your kids with the knowledge needed to protect themselves in the world when the playing field is uneven and rules can be changed at whim?
So what’s the answer? There isn’t just one. The one size fits all, guilty before being presumed innocent approach taken by some cops needs to be squashed. I am no expert, but these are my recommendations:
- The public needs to continue to videotape mistreatment whenever possible so that we can bring these incidents to light.
- We need to institute a nationwide policy of mandatory video cameras on officers. Bad officers need to be held accountable for their actions, and videotaping officers is a step in that direction.
- Sensitivity and cultural diversity curriculum needs to be infused into law enforcement training programs across the country. Training in general needs to be revamped.
- Officers that are doing their jobs honorably and respectfully should be rewarded. In the case of the pool party incident, it is only fair to mention that there were other officers on the video that seemed to be handling the situation relatively well. Many of them appeared to be taking appropriate action. We know that not all cops are bad, and the good cops should be rewarded for a job well done.
- We need to dismantle the pervasive belief that policemen are above the law. Not sure how to do this other than taking a look at the corruption that exists in many police departments across our nation.
I think we are all in agreement that incidents like the Texas pool party debacle need to end, and the only way that will happen if we take a long hard look at law enforcement in the U.S. The system is not working. I want to believe that it is possible to change things if police departments acknowledge that a problem exists and they take the necessary steps to fix things. I hope that I am able to one day tell my babies, “here are the rules that you must follow, and these rules apply to everyone.” I hope that I don’t have to fear for their lives every time we are apart. Until things change I will do my best to educate them on the ways of the world with the knowledge that what I say might not matter. I will also continue to keep my videophone handy.
Keep your phones handy too Afrolatinagirl peeps, it looks like we are going to need them a little while longer.