I am a white man. I can walk down the streets of any city in America safe in the knowledge that the police will not consider me suspicious. I have black friends who cannot say the same. What would be a routine, polite encounter with a law enforcement officer for me could end in their unjust death. That simply isn’t right. And that’s why I threw a brick through a window of this 7-11 and am now helping myself to several bottles of Dr. Pepper. I’m quenching my thirst for justice.
There are no easy answers to this problem. Obviously, the racist stereotypes that follow young black men to this day need to end. A black kid isn’t just a thug or a gangster. He’s someone with goals and passions and loved ones. He would enjoy these Twizzlers as much as I would, because we are both human beings.
But we must also remember that police officers are not robots. They are also human beings, humans capable of making poor decisions while under extreme stress. What seems like an obvious act of brutal, race inspired violence can be, at the time, a series of bad choices made while trying to process a flood of strong emotions in a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t get me wrong—any police officer who shoots a civilian should be invested to the fullest extent and, if appropriate, face relevant criminal charges. But we must resist rushing to judgement like I rushed through the shattered glass of this family owned business’ window so I could start shoving things into my backpack, because that’s just another form of stereotyping.
I think all of us, black and white, can agree that the culture of police militarisation in America needs to change. Peaceful protestors should not be dispersed with tear gas. Police officers should not be encouraged to use lethal force at the first sign of trouble. The man who chased me out of the Domino’s Pizza I looted earlier should not be wearing more body armour than a soldier deployed to a war zone, although in this particular case I’m not complaining because it slowed him down and let me make a clean getaway.
We are capable of effecting great change. Protestors of all races with their signs and shows of solidarity are making it clear to this country that we will refuse to tolerate racial discrimination, that we will refuse to tolerate a lack of accountability for police brutality, and that we will refuse to accept that getting gunned down in the street for no reason is a risk black men just have to put up with in life. And protestors like me refuse to let business owners who are probably racist continue to make a profit selling these Cool Ranch Doritos, profits that are part of the corporate system that supports America’s military-industrial complex, a complex which in turn enables police militarisation and disables my right to free junk food.
We are upset. We are saddened. But most of all, we are angry. And we won’t stop until justice is served and racist stereotypes are stamped out, or until the general chaos dies down and it’s no longer safe for me to steal from a totally unrelated business under the guise of a desire for accountability and change. Black America, I stand with you. Would your stand be easier if I offered you a refreshing Gatorade?