This is Police Week. While many police “protect and serve,” that’s not the full story of policing in this country.
I grew up hearing about police harassment my father suffered, a black man who grew up in segregated Williamsburg, Virginia, and turned 18 the day Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. Once a police officer stood on my dad’s back so long that he had a cowboy boot imprint for days.
I worry about my partner every day he leaves the house and about our son, when he becomes an adult black man.
Women of color around the country are grieving loved ones killed by police. Last year, police across the US killed almost 1000 people. Far too many of these killings are impossible to justify, but families often find that they have no meaningful opportunity to secure justice. Even in the face of live footage of excessive or lethal force, officers have often not been held accountable.
Not only is there a grave absence of justice, but many lawmakers are focused on precisely the opposite. Last night the House passed legislation to create a protected employment class for police, on a vote of 382 to 35, in response to the Movement for Black Lives.
Attorney General Sessions says it isn’t the federal government’s job to manage local and state law enforcement. But the Justice Department foots a substantial chunk of the bill through federal programs. The federal government has also sanctioned the dangerous use of militarized weapons by local law enforcement. In fact, this administration seems determined to give free rein to local law enforcement, with ever fewer limitations.
I recently returned from a sobering visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, created to tell the stories of the thousands of black people lynched between the late-1800s and mid-1900s, a time in the United States when blacks were the victims of unwritten rules and vigilante justice. This period helped to cement a legacy of fear and distrust between the black community and the police that hangs over the nation like a storm cloud.
The mothers and fathers who have lost sons and daughters at the hands of the police deserve to have their stories told and the lives of their loved ones honored. No police week should go by without understanding that much more must be done to create a nation that is fair and just for all.