Here we are once again. A Black man has been killed on the streets of America and we must watch it, digest it, explain it to our children, question it, debate it and defend his existence, and then move on to fight another day.
I am sure I cannot be the only person who is spiritually and emotionally drained by these events. I am sure I cannot be the only person who is filled with anger and hurt when looking at the state of my country of birth. And I am sure I cannot be the only person who fundamentally believes we must change the way in which our police (yes, our police for whom we pay taxes and therefore their salaries) are able to murder on camera, be absolved of criminal activity, collect pensions and contribute to a psychological trauma for Blacks across the country.
I have not watched the footage of 37-year-old Alton Sterling being murdered on camera. The grainy footage has been circulated via social media and is readily available to anyone who wants to witness it. I have chosen not to view it because I asked myself, “What exactly am I witnessing?” I made the mistake of watching Eric Garner lose his life on camera for selling “illegal” cigarettes. Now, just under two years later, another Black man is murdered, on camera, by the state.
There is a certain desensitizing nature of these videos that are so readily available. I know the nightmares I had after watching Garner lose his life and I wondered how many children saw the same video I did. How many young people clicked on a link and saw Sterling, a man who is my age, lose his life in 40 seconds?
So what should be done? I am truly at a loss. Clearly something must be done to train police officers when interacting with Black “suspects.” There are countless videos online that show white assailants verbally and physically abusing the police officers who are attempting to arrest them. At no point are guns drawn. Very rarely are tasers even used. So what needs to happen to ensure Black (and Latino) safety when interacting with police? The use of deadly force seems to be the rapid response or the default in these instances, instead of a last resort.
Where exactly should the training or screening of officers begin? Who should pay for it? How can we ensure the people hired to serve and protect are not thirsty for Black blood? In major cities across the country, there are police commissioners who routinely refer to Black suspects as thugs (New York City), officers who post racist comments about Black Lives Matter activists and even the president (San Francisco and Cleveland) and officers who have a history of bragging about the physical damage they are able to inflict on their subjects (Baltimore). If we are truly serious about ending this cycle of what appears to be state-sanctioned violence, we must take a more active role in the hiring and training of police departments across the country. We must not let these horrific incidents become our new normal.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.