Home > Death, Family, Grief, Love, Safety > Policemen, let names be names

Policemen, let names be names

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

These two men
are now memories,
members of a terrible club of those
deceased by having the misfortune
of crossing paths with policemen
while brown-skinned.

I wrote
in December 2014
that “No parent anywhere
should reasonably fear
the sanctioned killing
of their children.”

I also wrote
about social media’s
power to transform policing
specifically, to enhance
accountability, instead
of enabling officers
who have ended
a life to narrate
its conclusion;
to enable all
citizens to see
police officers
as protective force,
not protected fatality
factory.

In August 2015,
I wrote that if my husband
ever dies at police hands,
he will have died
with his hands
in the air.

This morning,
I pray for police cameras
actually turned on, for police
accountability such that lethal action results,
always, in independent review and indictment,
rather than habitual non-indictment
that virtually assures tomorrow
policemen will again kill
without consequence,
and then again the next day
and the next day,
and the next,
ad nauseum.

Let names be
names, not hashtags.
Let hashtags be hashtags.
Let police protect all, and be
held accountable when
they do not.

Let my husband
make it home to me safely
today, and every day … and let
everyone’s husband, and father,
and son, and brother and cousin,
do the same, instead of
reasonably fearing
at every traffic stop.

Let me look at
policemen and think,
“I am so glad you are out there
protecting me and mine,”
instead of cringing and
thinking, “Please do not
kill without recourse
today, tomorrow,
or ever again.”

Accountability
is not a negative
thing, but the basis
of trust, and oh, how
I want to trust
(reasonably).

This is the picture I will plaster everywhere. You will not find a mugshot.

This is the picture I will plaster everywhere.
You will not find a mugshot.

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  1. Paul
    July 7, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Well said Deborah

  2. July 7, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    #AltonSterling … Alton Sterling … #PhilandoCastile … Philando Castile #SayTheirNames ….

  3. July 7, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Yes. I saw the latest atrocity on our news and cringed. Which I have done too often. And would like to never do again.

    • July 7, 2016 at 10:48 pm

      Likewise … I have so much I want to say inspired by this, but it would be 3,000 words on the short end. So, likewise.

  4. July 7, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Wonderfully and thoughtfully written my sweet Deb.
    I would love to re-post this on my blog if it’s alright with you?
    I live in St. Louis MO and unfortunately have seen the ‘after’ of such loss, and judgement on a scale I’d never seen before. Your post gets to the heart of the matter, of humanity, and how sad it is that we as a society still need reminding of our right to be safe and just, no matter our job title or color of our skin.

    • July 7, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      I would be grateful if you shared this. ♥

      I want to say more, but my brain and heart are tired … while somehow not being tired enough to shift into standby and find some reprieve in fitful sleep.

      • July 8, 2016 at 12:10 am

        Thank you, and I too can’t sleep. It’s so close I can almost touch it. I know if I get out of bed I’ll be up all night with my thoughts…and a baby. So here I stay. I keep writing, but it’s just to heavy to continue.

  5. July 7, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Beautiful & Heartbreaking 😥

  6. July 8, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Let all sons and daughters of mothers make it home safely, whether they be black or white, officer or civilian.

    • July 8, 2016 at 9:02 am

      Indeed, I agree, but can we all agree that it’s not just a matter of getting home safely, but a true *problem*–a *historical* and *alive* problem–of one group of people being considered the lesser?

      There was a time in U.S. history, and not very long ago, really, where a black man was counted as 3/5 of a human being. Think about that: 3/5 a human being. Yet, by the way Black Lives have been treated by police, the media and the U.S. Court system, one might think that the 14th Amendment didn’t happen.

      I want everyone to get home safely. I want all families to see each other at the end of the day, including police (my grandfather and uncle were both part of the Los Angeles Sheriff Department); but what I really *really* want is for the cops to stop shooting and beating black folk as a pure kneejerk reaction and not facing any reprise save for a small bump in public opine.

      • July 8, 2016 at 9:15 am

        Exactly so. When it is easier to indict a ham sandwich than an officer of the law, “law” becomes a different beast altogether than anything that should bear that mantle.

    • July 8, 2016 at 9:13 am

      I almost didn’t approve this comment for reasons related to #4 @ https://deborah-bryan.com/2016/03/19/your-comment-meet-my-trash-can/. This is not about you, whom I admire and respect, but about how what I publish here contributes–in whatever infinitesimal way–to shaping deeply troubling public narrative.

      I agree with your comment’s premise, to be sure, but have seen sentiments like this too often espoused in ways that shift collective focus from recurrent state-sponsored terror over which we citizens ought have some control– instead of being put at risk by the very officers actually paid to protect us–to isolated, non-government actors over which we the people have markedly less possibility for control.

      With my tax dollars paying police salaries, I expect–demand!–their individual and collective accountability … or, failing that, relinquishment of their badges and guns, when these taxpayer-provided items are used to destroy instead of protect. When they are used as license to kill without so much as an indictment, all on taxpayers’ dimes. If I am silent, I who have paid their salaries unquestioning am complicit in murder.

      I thus question, and demand accountability from those sworn to protect, while I have no hope of successfully demanding it from any isolated, non-governmental actor who has sworn no similar oath.

      • July 8, 2016 at 11:07 am

        Thank you for approving that comment and leaving you and your husband’s thoughtful replies as a record of why it can be hurtful. Some people say these things because they’re trying to be passive aggressive. Others just don’t understand yet why we have to examine the facts of this problem with truth and emotional honesty before we can implement effective change.

        As long as we live in a society where so many police officers see black skin as something that immediately puts them in grave danger, Pegoleg’s stated desire is too simplistic to help. That’s why Black Lives Matter is an important statement. Anyone’s resistance to that simple statement in light of systemic violence against us, proves why it needs to be said and contemplated.

        • July 9, 2016 at 3:57 am

          I thought about it some more, and I’m really glad Peg posted it. There’s pretty much no one else from whom I would have approved this comment.

          So, peculiar though it may sound to Peg, I ended up approving her comment to express concern … because love (even if it might not feel like that!). I can’t tell you how or when it happened, but I love her to pieces despite the fact we have never physically met. She makes me laugh. She makes me cry, good tears, not like the kind touched on in this morning’s post. In my heart, she’s pretty much the blogger equivalent of my godmom.

          When Peg posts something, I have absolute, unequivocal, 100% faith that her words and actions are inspired by love, even when they’re different than my own.

          So I’m glad she posted, and I had an opportunity to articulate something I would not have otherwise. I’m also glad to see how I have changed. When Anthony told me seven-ish years ago that our baby would experience racism, he also tried explaining systemic racism. I nodded along, but I had no practical idea WTF he was talking about.

          Now I do. And I know systemic racism is not a result of overt ill will, but how people think. How humans are wired to think! I am chock full of implicit biases.

          We must acknowledge our prejudices to work to mitigate them, and when we don’t and our government systems reflect that … we have systemic racism.

          Did you see John Legend’s tweets on the matter? They pretty much sum it up for me, most especially this one:

          We should not have to jump through hoops to prove black people shouldn’t be shot by police during routine traffic stops.

          Too many people–officers included–do unwittingly treat skin color itself as an escalation, and the only way to counter that … is to ensure folks, especially state-paid folks, understand that this internal escalation is happening, as well as that the fact it’s happening doesn’t make the need for escalation truth.

  7. July 8, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Well said, Deborah and Anthony.

    After those two shootings, a black friend of my husband’s told me she was beside herself with worry for her two 18-year-old grandsons. It’s heartbreaking that a grandmother, mother, wife, etc. should have to worry about that with people who have sworn an oath to protect and serve, on top of all of the other bad stuff in the world.

    • July 9, 2016 at 4:11 am

      Hear, hear.

      Anthony and I have a policy where we answer our kids’ questions honestly as seems appropriate based on where they’re at. (So far, it’s easier with J than D–but time will almost surely change that!) It sucked to try boiling Ferguson down with him when D was pretty newly five, but, oh. We haven’t touched on many specifics since then.

      In the last few days, D’s heard us talking about specific tweets and articles, but with the context around them unspoken. He hasn’t asked many questions, so that I haven’t … for a moment … had to explain things like “implicit bias” and “systemic racism.”

      My heart breaks for the time when he asks again, “But they won’t shoot me?” and I’ll have to lie or tell a truth that will instantaneously change the world he knows.

  8. July 8, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    It is a beautiful picture. Thank you for your words today.

  9. July 11, 2016 at 6:02 am

    I’m glad that you allowed Peg’s comment and the opportunity for thoughtful discourse. I have personally met Peg and she is every bit as delightful as we have come to know and love her in our virtual world. While her comment may seem simplistic, I am certain it was not intended as a platitude — her huge heart and concern for humankind notwithstanding, there often aren’t words that can be offered that don’t seem overly simplistic.

    A year ago I read this article: https://thsppl.com/i-racist-538512462265#.gv2yewdxp. It is powerful (and a bit long) and it helped me, as a white-as-white can be grandmother who has spent her entire life in a mostly white world – to understand systemic racism. I recognize that racism exists, in every aspect of our country and always has. I no longer have hurt feelings when people – black, brown, yellow or any color – want to discuss racism.

    Police culture needs changing and needs changing quickly. Those paid to serve and protect are paid to serve and protect everyone. Without question, without hesitation, and without regard to skin pigmentation.

    I have 2 sons – you have 2 beautiful sons – mine never had to be profiled, followed through the mall as if they had or were about to commit some crime, or hear the clicks of electronic car door locks as they pass people’s cars in the parking lot. One of my students told me that was a defining moment in his growing up as a young black man in America – hearing those clicks as he walked past cars in a parking lot.

    I have rambled on and on – but just wanted to thank you and Anthony for your conversation – it is so important for everyone. Believe it or not, when I hear (all too often) about these horrendous incidents I think about your family and some families close to me with mixed racial makeup and how hard it must be to understand and explain. Bless you and be safe – and keep the conversations going. It’s important.

  10. July 14, 2016 at 3:35 am

    I am slow in reading right now. I was slow in writing too. Dallas was too close. The entire issue for me is to close, as it is for you. My heart weeps and I am simply out of ‘what do we do now’.

    This was beautiful. Thank you ❤

  11. July 30, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Thank you for this. I’m an aspiring officer and lately I’ve been wavering in my dreams to become a police officer. There are good officers out there just as there are good every day citizens. I too hope that everyone makes it home safe.

  1. July 8, 2016 at 12:38 am
  2. July 9, 2016 at 3:10 am
  3. September 20, 2016 at 8:06 pm

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