It seems as if though the spotlight put on police brutality and excessive force in the past 8 months combined with – if not as a result of – the countless social and community-led movements to display intolerance has actually had some sway. In the recent events of the deaths of Freddie Gray and Walter Scott, we have seen legal systems who have finally not faltered in terms of indicting hallowed Public Enforcement officials when they have done wrong and used (seemingly racially biased) overly-aggressive tactics. Have the people finally been heard? Is this enough? Do we not still need to address the root of the issue – the training and systemic problems in these institutions? The answers for some of these questions are more evident than others, but we will touch on each in this article.
First – has enough been done? In a matter of approximately 8 months, there continues to be events of police brutality costing lives, which are clearly and sadly disproportionately black lives. Although there seems to be less wavering in the judicial system following these occurrences, many of these indictments come by chance; a bystander happening to be in the right place at the right time and gathering critical footage or evidence, for example. Why has means to address this lack of proper accountability not been aggressively rolled out by governing bodies? The need for and risk of not having proper accountability and surveillance measures has already proven itself, and frankly, the people won’t stand for that anymore. Therefore – no. Enough hasn’t been done. The indictments now seem to be reactionary at best, but proactive and preventative steps need be taken.
What is the cause of the issue? How can prevention and proactive measures be adopted to make these numerous events in the past 8-9 months more of a statistical anomaly than the norm we expect? Is this constant disturbing trend not reason enough for implementing Sensitivity training? Cultural awareness? Aggressive screening? Therapy? All of these measures may help address the issue that a hostile and prejudiced mindset towards many people of color (not solely black men; i.e example of Sureshbhai Patel in February 6th, 2015) clearly exists within the law enforcement industry and sadly, this has existed for decades, going back as far as the incidents of Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell.
The people’s voices have been heard more passionately due to hundreds of Community Organizers and peaceful protests (i.e. DeRay McKesson, MillionHoodies Movement for Justice). McKesson so elegantly pointed out to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “you are suggesting that broken windows are worse than broken spines,” to summarize that the cause of the Riots were more important than the Riots property damage. Yes – sadly, the anger, frustration and disappointment of these events has also manifested itself in the form of riots due to the wanton disregard for colored life at the hands of law enforcement. The nation has no choice but to listen and act now. Maybe it’s fitting AGO’s Basquiat exhibit resonated with me so much, because I feel “now [more than ever] is the time”.