Yet another police shooting: something must change

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 4:53 PM

My emotion is inexplicable. 

On March 18, yet another name was added to the long register of dead black men. And I can’t seem to conjure sentences to describe my pain. I’d like to write movingly about this. I’d like to capture my anger in words. Most of all I’d like to pretend that everything is okay. But the truth is this: everything is not okay. Because when a black man is shot in front of his grandmother’s house for holding a cell phone, the reality becomes self-evident that the very image of any object in the hands of a black man will always be perceived as a weapon. 

I have five black brothers. 

They’ve all inherited the “giant” genes that run in my family, meaning they tower over people. Their voices are deep, rich baritones that prompt people to suggest radio as careers for them. These are traits that are attractive on any man — but dangerous on black men. To be tall and black is to be “threatening.” To tower with black skin is to put a target on your back. To be vocal and black is to prompt suspicion about possible criminal intent. 

And so, because my brothers are tall, and black, and rowdy, I am always subconsciously fearing for their safety. 

Change, I fear, is a hope that I and my family have locked away in some far away chest, deep inside of ourselves, because now at ages five and 10 and 12 and 16, my brothers have been trained to hold their hands where they can be seen, to smile and try not to look threatening, and to sit still and silent if a police officer tries to restrain them. 

Something must happen. 

Citizens, politicians and police departments must realize that murders are not okay. That no matter his alcohol level, or his past criminal history, or his actions, killing someone in a hail of bullets or in a chokehold is not “standard” procedure. Fighting for a murderer to be held accountable is not a “liberal agenda.”

Justice in America was not written into the Constitution as “shoot first and ask questions later.” 

Whatever happened to the right to a fair and just trial in the court of law? When did police officers become executioners? When did the procedures for burying a murdered black man and watching his killers get let off free, become yet another injustice written into the unspoken history of black Americans? 

Approximately 72 percent of black men report feeling as though police officers have stopped them because of their race, according to Gallup. 

I wonder what police departments think about statistics like that. 

With the number of dead bodies increasing, the reports of racial profiling raising and the amount of people walking in the streets shouting until their voices are raw growing, the issue is plain; Major reform must be put in place by local, state and federal authorities overseeing the actions of police departments. 

According to The Atlantic, government at the federal, state and local levels have no systems in place to track the number of police shootings that occur in a department over one year. 

Furthermore, when incidents of police brutality become evident, many local governments resist the efforts of the justice department to change procedure because of the cost that they often incur. Even when corrections in the operation of police departments seem to have been enacted, old demons often rear their heads again. As with the case of Tamir Rice that occurred just a decade after the justice department stepped in to fix issues with the way the Cleveland police department was operating. 

Diversity is another major factor in the outcomes of police behavior. The United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that 78.7 percent of police officers are white. 

In Ferguson, police officers were only required to undergo a one-hour training session on diversity, according to a local paper, The Journal and Courier.

 I fail to see how a majority white police force, not at all reflective of the majority brown neighborhoods that they police, can effectively deal with issues that might be far removed from anything they have experienced. 

To ask for better training of police and the reform of policing in America is not to say that all police are evil. Most officers in a police department most likely joined because they wanted to make a difference. And policing becomes easier when officers don’t have to make decisions on their own, but can instead refer to set guidelines on how to deal with a situation. 

Strict accountability for every action the police take is crucial in eliminating the narrative that police are “warriors.” The neighborhoods that they police are not battlefields — and the individuals who live there are not criminals.

Logically, it seems too simple to pass these changes into effect. I can see what needs to be changed and my frustration churns inside of me, screaming for the people that matter to see it as well. But they don’t. 

And because they don’t, I know that ink pens will run dry from the recording of the names of dead black men, while the ghosts of generations of dead black men wait in tepid anticipation for the people that matter to realize that something must be done. 

Shayma Musa can be reached at

Tags: voices

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