I am sure I am not the only person who feels this way, but my spirit aches each time I read a story about a young Black boy or girl dying at the hands of the police.
Yes, I included girls. Indeed, we march for the lives of Mike Brown, Walter Scott, Eddie Gray and too many others. However, we must also march for the young girls who have been taken from their families and communities. We must remember Tanisha Anderson (Cleveland), Shelly Frey (Houston), Darnisha Harris (Breaux Bridge, La.), and many others. It seems as though we are reaching numbers that are becoming so staggering, they are almost difficult to emotionally compute in their totality. As I think about the loss their families and friends must feel, I also think about the loss for their communities, their potential and ambition taken from so many who could benefit from their presence in their lives.
These incidents made me think, are people of color being brutalized and killed at greater rates than in the past? Or has the number of smartphones increased so greatly over the past few years that we are actually just now witnessing a reality that has been plaguing several communities across the country for decades? When discussing this question with historian Samuel Roberts, we wondered if one day we will all look back and see that smartphones will be credited as one of the primary catalysts (hopefully) for police reform, the decline of mass incarceration and a real substantive conversation about the way Blacks are treated in America.
As more and more Americans from all different class levels purchase smartphones and have the courage to record incidents involving civilians and police officers, will we see changes in police behavior? I do hope so. Many people want justice after viewing these brutal interactions with police, but we must also demand sustained equal treatment under the law and accountability from those who appoint law‑enforcement leadership in their various locales. I do hope these incidents have elected officials fearful of the light that is being shown on their leadership or lack thereof.
I do hope people will take this anger, fear, anxiety and hurt and translate it into putting pressure on elected officials, politically organizing and voting officials out of office if they must.
Social activism is needed and necessary in 2015. However, we can marry social activism with political activism and hopefully move discussions pertaining to police reform, incarceration, community funding, education and job opportunities to the forefront of the political conversation. These issues are all interconnected and just because dominant-party candidates or frontrunners haven’t made it a priority does not mean communities can’t find and support candidates who will get their issues on the agenda. We will continue to march, to fulfill the potential of so many Black women and men who can no longer fight with us.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.”