With the shooting death of Alton Sterling the new cycles are awash again with racial tension as another African American man was gunned down by police officers in what can only be called cold blood. The shooting took place in Baton Rouge, LA and, as expected in today’s day and age, has touched off a firestorm of reactions and emotions. This blog isn’t really about the shooting though. The officers should be tried and, in my opinion, convicted and sentenced to many years in prison but the real issue I have is with the method of protest that has become a favorite in 2016, the hashtag.
The hashtag embodies everything that is a fucking problem with how we go about discussing issues nowadays. Its a simple, easy, bullshit way that people try to mark themselves as martyrs or social justice warriors without taking any of the risks or actions that have marked them out in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are those on social media who do rally and protest and that Twitter, among other platforms, is key in organizing such events but the vast majority of postings are coming from people who just see something trending and decide to jump on the bandwagon.
Think about that. Its pretty fucked up that the only time most people start a discourse as important as police brutality in America is when its got a hashtag trending and they decide, “well, this is going to take me .5 seconds to do” and deciding to chime in. What’s even crazier is how selective it is. 558 people have been killed in interactions with police officers this year and you think 558 hashtags have been created and dominated top trends? Fuck no. So people are only talking/discussing/enraged about cases that are smacking them right in the forehead and it takes them seconds to chime in?
Even more frustrating? Those same people who do decide to pipe up when a trend for wrongful death is trending then act like they are heroes and decry anyone who doesn’t join in may not do jack shit about it afterwards. If your contribution to the discourse is an angry tweet before you jump back on shoes.com to shop or check your fantasy team then you aren’t contributing, you aren’t taking a stand, you aren’t a ‘good’ person. You’re lazy and are only concerned with the appearance of doing something. I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the way the written and spoken word became more important than action in determining character.
Sitting around and yelling about institutionalized racism and raging at police brutality is well and good, to a point. You need an outcry to bring the issue to the forefront but when that is ALL you do, you are useless. You’re the same as the NRA-politician you are hating on for tweeting “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting. Bemoaning the state of African Americans in this country is not enough, you should be volunteering to work in inner city communities. You should become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Want to make an even greater impact? Join law enforcement. Become part of the solution by being a conscientious police officer who shows restraint and reverence for all people no matter their skin color. Maybe rise in the ranks and try to implement measures that curb the lethal, uncalled for nature of events like Alton’s (I dunno, maybe have non-lethal weapons be issues instead of a gun, reserve guns for SWAT teams or for veterans who have been on the force for 5+ years, something). I find it both amusing and sad that a lot of people who scream about being told how to act and what they can do by others who are not like them (i.e. women on abortion rights to men, minorities on police to white people) then turn around and tell police how to do their jobs. You aren’t risking your life to keep your fellow citizens safe, you aren’t waking up in the morning thinking today could be the day you aren’t fast enough and you die, yet you are able to fix all of the racial tension in every situation ever in 140 characters or less. How about instead of only marching around protesting the fallen you work proactively to prevent people from becoming fallen? And yes, that includes getting kids off the inner city streets through mentoring and education. It comes from reporting actual criminals instead of letting them run rampant around communities. It comes from dedication and perseverance. It comes from something that is a hell of a lot harder to do then spouting off on Twitter and hitting the block button on anyone who dares not throw you a Fav or a RT.
Again, I’m not saying these stances and this anger are not legitimate. They 100% are in some cases and they most certainly are in Alton’s case but that’s just it, its case by case. Every time the argument expands beyond the case it gets distorted, generalized, and lost in the ether. Why are we stuck reacting? All I see are people bitching about the same problem and then not having any suggestions for solutions. Why? Because its hard? Because it would actually take some effort other than blaming the boogeyman with the badge? Because maybe there should be some reflection on how inner city children are raised to minimize not just wrongful deaths but deadly police interactions overall? Because its easier to just paint everything as black and white instead of dealing with each case on a case by case basis? Because your narrative may get distorted? Fuck that. That’s why there aren’t 558 hashtags, because only those events that are slam dunks in one column or the other get propped up for mass consumption.
This cuts both ways. If you are a police officer and you saw what happened to Alton you should be fucking pissed. Every unwarranted death is a stain on your profession’s honor and getting mad that people are pointing it out is the wrong reaction. You are murdering people you are sworn to protect. People of your community. Their past actions should have no bearing on how you go about dispensing justice or restraining them and the color of their skin sure as shit shouldn’t have anything to do with how they are treated, especially when you are just responding to a situation and have no idea who you are dealing with. The longer police officers and politicians blindly stand behind every police shooting the more they encourage the feeling of anger and distrust they so resent. Come out and say these officers fucked up and should be in jail for life for murder. I don’t care if they are your fellow officers. They fucked up. They broke the law. They should be held accountable. Your silence, when you are part of the institution that has wantonly served death in certain situations, is damming just as those who don’t report crimes in the inner city are also damming themselves to more violence and more dangerous streets.
In the end, discourse in America needs to be elevated. People are so caught up in the scoreboard that they don’t care that the game has suffered. Make a difference through action, proactive action, and meaningful discussion instead of just tapping on a screen or linking to some bullshit study or throwing a meme on a 2×4 and marching around. Make a difference by changing policies and training, by making an effort to reach out to the community you are policing instead of treating them like murderers just waiting for their chance.
Treat each other like fellow goddamn humans with all of the complex emotions, thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams, and fears that you have. Everyone you meet is on a hard journey, do not get so wrapped up and warped by your own that you forget that.