Eric Garner: 43-year-old husband and father of six. Michael Brown: 18-year-old about to start college. Alton Sterling: 37-year-old father of five. Terence Crutcher: 40-year-old father of four and community college student.
What do all these men have in common? They were all fatally shot by police officers. Another similarity? They all had their hands in the air, and there was no probable cause to shoot.
All around America, there are protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, but there’s an equal number of people saying All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. This turns it into a sick and twisted “debate.” It becomes politicized, and people’s opinions are split based on party lines.
Topics like gun control and abortion are things that can be debated in the political sphere: they deal with constitutional rights and law. While the “lives matter” movement has some relation to law, and guns, that is not what it’s about.
We all need to see the shootings for what they are: tragedies. We can debate, to some extent, whether police get enough training, and what the solution is to this problem.
We cannot debate whether or not this is a problem. Once everyone admits that it’s a problem, we can argue over the solution.
Racism is a systemic issue in our country, leading to “segregated,” poor, black communities that are breeding grounds for gangs and low education. These neighborhoods can be dangerous, however our police are there to protect ALL citizens. They are not allowed to be overcome by fear and shoot.
Many of these shootings have happened in “dangerous” or “scary” neighborhoods, and some of the victims had previously been charged with crimes. This does not entitle them to be killed. America only uses capital punishment in a few specific cases, and last time I checked, selling CDs or cigarettes without a license, stealing a car, selling drugs or even owning a gun are not on that list.
Even if the men shot weren’t model citizens, they didn’t deserve to die. They had families and lives and were not a threat to the police or other citizens. Even if they were being argumentative with the police, why would that warrant more than a tasering?
Admitting that these shootings are a problem is not synonymous with believing that police officers are evil. Police officers have one of the hardest jobs in America and are not at fault. They are an effect of a deeper problem, not the cause of a new one.
The All Lives Matter response is an equally unsatisfactory. The reason we have people in our county who have joined the Black Lives Matter movement is that they feel black lives are being targeted and black people are valued less than their white counterparts.
They are not preaching for black supremacy, but just want people to acknowledge that black people in America are at an inherent disadvantage because of the color of their skin. The purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is to say that all lives matter equally. Racism in America is an undeniable problem, and requires a real response.
I don’t know the solution, but I do know that we need to be thinking about one. No matter my political and social views, I can realize that innocent people being shot down for no reason is not okay and never will be. What’s happening in our country is horrible and terrifying. Nobody deserves to fear for their life when leaving their house just because of where they live or the color of their skin.
Until we come together as a country and admit that we have a problem, nothing will get better. I have hope and faith in my fellow citizens. I trust that we will be able to work together and stop “debating” the value, or lack thereof, of life.
Featured Image Credit: Jenny Chang/The Foothill Dragon Press