2016 has been a racially-charged marathon! Too many ethnic groups have been the target of institutional racism in a rigged system. Black people feel oppressed, Latino people feel unwanted, and Muslims are being used as scapegoats for the real problems.
Movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) exist because millions of Americans are tired of feeling like second-class citizens. Protesters believe that the government is either unwilling or unable to protect black lives and civil rights. Because of BLM, police brutalities and shootings have become a national and political issue. What every BLM member wants to know is, ”What’s going to happen now?”
California went that extra mile by passing a law that requires Kamala Harris, our Attorney General, to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate all cases where a cop murders someone in the line of duty. This alone won’t solve California’s police homicides, but it does put one sole person in charge of who will ultimately prosecute these officers; and that person is Attorney General Kamala Harris. This law is about accountability. It’s a good start but not nearly enough.
Iceland, with a population of 323,000 has had exactly one person die from police shootings in the last 71 years! Whereas, in Stockton California which has a population of 298,000, there were three shootings in the first five months of 2015. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an assembly that takes place every 4 years in Geneva. During this assembly, each of the 193 member states of the United Nations is allowed to voice their concerns about the human and civil rights practices of the other member states. At the most recent UPR, delegates from 117 countries took this opportunity to slam America on its record of civil rights violations. These delegations were from countries like Russia, China, Turkey, and even Pakistan. It’s clear to the rest of the world that our civil rights practices need drastic reform!
Members of Black Lives Matter are Californians and Americans who are trying to make their lives and their communities better. But outrage on social media and even real world protests has not stopped the killings. We need real systematic change to how police are recruited, trained, and held accountable. That’s why the CNP has made judicial and police reform one of the center-points of our platform.
In the first draft of this article I ended by urging people to buy bulletproof vests. And maybe that really is what it takes to stay alive as a young black man in America. But it shouldn’t be that way. Failing to address police brutality and rampant racial profiling is a choice. Continuing to vote for the same political parties that promised change and deliver more of the status quo is a choice. Letting that status quo kill our brothers and sisters is a choice. It’s about time we started making different choices.
Police do not have to shoot to kill. In fact, countries like Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland have police officers that do not even carry guns. Instead they receive three years of training and are taught to defuse a situation without resorting to deadly force. This is a stark difference from the 19 weeks our law enforcement receive at home. In the cases where suspects are armed, the officers call for backup and trained armed forces arrive on the scene to take over. This idea of law enforcement was adopted from Britain’s law- “Officers are placed in authority to protect, not to oppress, the public.” We could adapt these tactics to work here in California.
None of this is intended to demonize our police. The majority of police officers are good people who are doing a good job. If you disagree then you should consider becoming a police officer and setting that example. We need to produce more leaders from our minority groups to be the voices inside, as well as holding signs and marching. That’s why we are actively looking for people who want to get involved and run for local offices all over California. I hear so many people demanding change, but many more sit on the sidelines because the system we have in place “kinda works”. That’s not good enough for me and it’s not good enough for you. Join us and help us build a system that really does work for all of us. Be that change you want to see.