by Adalia Rodriguez, Opinions Contributor
Graphic courtesy of Family Guy
In 2014, Laquan McDonald was fatally shot 16 times by a Chicago Police officer; in the first two seconds upon arriving at the scene, Tamir Rice was also fatally shot twice by a Cleveland Police officer and in a three-minute video clip, Eric Garner pleaded “I can’t breathe” 11 times while being choked. Garner would eventually lose consciousness and pass away at the hands of the NYPD. In 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over for an ordinary traffic stop, and 40 seconds later he was shot seven times by a Minnesota Police officer. In 2015, Walter Scott was fired at eight times by the South Carolina Police Department — five of the eight bullets hit and killed him. Afterward, Scott was handcuffed, facedown and dead in the ground. In 2018, Stephon Clark was shot at 20 times — seven of them would hit him. He died in his grandmother’s backyard. More than 20 bullets were fired into Breonna Taylor’s home in March. Eight of them hit her body, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, George Floyd laid on Minnapolis concrete with a knee pinned to his neck on May 25. He would die at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.
I don’t care that racism makes you uncomfortable. I don’t care if your mother, father, uncle, aunt, grandmother or cousin served in law enforcement. Guess what? I have family and family friends who are in law enforcement, but the system is racist regardless of if I know people in there or not. If the system weren’t racist, Black parents would not have to stress about at what age it is time to have “the talk” —- not “the birds and the bees” one, but “the talk” about what to do if a cop pulls you over. If the system weren’t racist, there would be a lot more White people getting arrested and charged for drug possession. If the system weren’t racist, Black men would not be consistently profiled as “thugs,” and there would be less over-policing in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods. If the system weren’t racist, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Eric Gardner, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Stephon Clark, Breonna Taylor, Geroge Floyd and so many more African Americans would be alive
Law enforcement tell their officers to not get attached to anything. To leave the emotion at the door. But the thing is, you can’t leave racism at the door. Black people cannot shed the color of their skin off the way a cop takes off their uniform when they go home. The police system was founded on racism, and for hundreds of years it has claimed to help protect Americans and yet has lynched, raped, whipped, beat up, shot, killed and ignored Black Americans without being held accountable. The system has to be changed. In this piece, I speak about eight human lives that were unjustly taken in the past six years because of the color of their skin, but there are thousands of stories just like theirs —- some we know because there’s video footage, but countless others have been buried, forgotten by the system that is supposed to protect the lives of all humans.
In all these years, the policing system hasn’t changed because the police have never been held accountable for their actions. Of course, politicians can force change, but regular people also can and need to. Understand that it doesn’t matter that Laquan McDonald was allegedly on PCP and had a small knife on him when he was killed. What matters is that he was a 17-year-old boy shot 16 times while walking down the middle of the street. You cannot understand what it is like to be Black in America without being Black. You cannot understand the feeling that a Black person has when a police officer confronts them unless you are Black. Being Black in America is nowhere near the same as being White in America, and this difference can immediately be pointed out by looking at our policing system.
Although anyone who is not Black cannot understand the feeling of being Black, we can educate ourselves on why the system has to be reformed. This can come through conversations at the dinner table, books, movies, protesting, research or all the above. But most of all, we cannot forget. We can’t forget that Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times. We can’t forget that in two seconds, Tamir Rice was shot dead without a second thought. We can’t forget that Eric Garner repeated 11 times “I can’t breathe” before he died or that Philando Castile was shot seven times. We can’t forget that Walter Scott was shot five times, died, and was then handcuffed, or that Stephon Clark had seven bullets in him when he died. We can’t forget about Breonna Taylor getting shot eight times in her own house, and we cannot forget that like Eric Garner, George Floyd repeated “I can’t breathe” while a knee was pressed on his neck for nearly nine minutes before he died. Finally, we cannot forget that the cops who killed all of these Black people got off with either no or minimal sentencing. Until there is justice, there will be no peace.