Hands Up, Don’t Shoot

Charles Kinsey

[Photo credit: New York Daily News]

Yesterday, while trying to calm and protect a man with autism, Charles Kinsey laid on the ground with his hands held up high on video, and a police officer shot him. When asked why he fired his gun, the officer said, “I don’t know.”

Thankfully, Kinsey’s injuries are not life-threatening, but the trauma and violence is very threatening.

Last night at the Republican National Convention, Mike Pence said that Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the heroes of his youth. In the very same speech, he listed the challenges that police officers are facing as they have experienced recent violence. Without question, these officers and their families personally deserve empathy for the losses they’ve recently endured, and violence against them must be decried. But there were also obvious omissions in the list of names and incidents of violence that Mike Pence chose to spotlight last night.

Black lives matter.

This phrase seems to enrage some. But it must be said because in the face of police violence and brutality — in the midst of numerous cases of police officers going uncharged or un-convicted after shooting and killing black lives — it is clear that black lives don’t matter to some. At the very least, we and our institutional systems regularly indicate that black lives matter less.

Last night, in another RNC speech, Alton Sterling, a black man killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, was listed as heroic, and people in crowd the muted their cheering. Some even booed.

Yesterday’s shooting is another horrific instance of violence. It’s true that not every police officer is personally responsible for what happened to Charles Kinsey specifically yesterday. But every police officer must be responsive to what has emerged as a clear pattern of violence against black lives in the system of modern policing. Most importantly, we must be responsive. We have to push and protest toward that change. We have to put that pressure on.

These patterns aren’t new, and they didn’t just emerge. Remember Rodney King all the way back in 1991? These patterns been happening for a long time. 2015 and 2016 have just really made them obvious.

So what will we do?

Renee Roederer

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