BY: TAYLOR GABRIEL-REMIGIO
It all started in the summer of 2013 after the acquittal for the killer of Trayvon Martin was released. Martin was a young and scared African-American teen who was innocently killed while walking home. Black communities were raging, and they had a right to be because all knew that the person who killed Trayvon Martin was a cold-blooded killer that got away with murder. I couldn’t have been more than 14-years-old at the time, watching the trial unfold on CNN and listening to the awful events that took place. I distinctly remember finding out about the verdict and being sick to my stomach- but I wasn’t the only one.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement started as just that: a hashtag on social media. Three Black female organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, were behind it all. Throughout the years, the BLM movement has grown and it gained observation worldwide. However, as this powerful movement bloomed, more Black lives have been lost. It has become abundantly clear that corruption and racism from our ancestor’s past are still poisoning our present.
The data doesn’t lie. Statistics have shown time and time again that Black Americans are most likely demographic to be wrongfully killed by the police. No, it doesn’t matter what they did, the crimes they may or may not have committed, what they were wearing, or where they were at the time. What matters is that we’re losing precious lives at the hands of law enforcement and something needs to be done.
A POLICE CHILD
Being born and raised in Hawai’i, I was very sheltered to what was going on in what we called the ‘mainland.’ There wasn’t much talk of Black Lives Matter, racism, or police brutality. I grew up hearing that the “White man stole our land and our rights.” Both of my parents work in law enforcement and I often get caught between a rock and a hard place. Night after night, I would kiss them goodbye as they left for work. I would pray before bed every night that they would come home safely in the morning and I would have another day with them. All of our family friends were first-responders and I found myself surrounded in their environment and in their worlds. We would consistently hang out, bond, and BBQ, extend a helping hand when someone was in need, and just looked out for one another.
As the BLM movement grew, I noticed more anti-police individuals emerging. For the longest time, I couldn’t recognize why. I never saw the toxic side of all our law enforcement friends and family. I never encountered the same events that minorities were going through thousands of miles away. In a way, I was confused about how someone could hate another person for signing up for a job that puts them at risk every day. I was blinded.
Once I graduated, I hopped on the first flight out to Las Vegas for college and reality hit me like a bus. My eyes opened and I was able to branch out into the real world. I then saw the reality of law enforcement that others were talking about. There is no doubt that social media enhanced it, but it was the friends that I made, the connections that I formed, and the stories that I heard that brought this new side to light.
“I had my first police convo with my mom when I was in first grade,” my dear friend and UNLV student, Michael S. stated.
“They told me if something happened and I wanted to go home, I had to behave or else me and all my siblings would be split up.”
There is no “too young” when it comes to having the police talk. Most American families do not even know what the police talk is. I know I didn’t and it is a privilege that we often take for granted. Black families have to have a talk with their children about what to do when you are stopped by the police because they have lived their lives dealing with racial profiling, police brutality, and racism. Michael experienced this talk multiple times throughout his life and said that he will “most definitely be having the talk with his children for as long as we have the policing institution that we have now.”
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, a case of police brutality went viral. George Floyd’s last moments of life were caught on camera and shared for the world to see. The #BlackLivesMatter movement gained instant followers after watching the horrible video online as well as thousands of protests were held in honor of Mr. Floyd throughout the country and world.
I felt the pain others were feeling. I felt the betrayal, the heartbreak, and the grief. I know that the struggles and events the Black community faces today are due to the racist background America grew upon. None of them deserve the generational and ancestral trauma or the fear they live with daily. It shattered me to see Mr. Floyd’s last few minutes of life as it did for everyone else who saw it. And it absolutely broke me thinking about his family who was left without a son, a dad, a brother, and an uncle. But as I saw more protesters turn to violence, fear bubbled up inside me.
FROM PEACEFUL TO F*** THE POLICE
Many protests were done peacefully, where tears, sadness, and loss were felt in all. But then there were those who are angry and tired; tired of police brutality, tired of living in fear, and tired of losing another member of the community. Lashing out, rioting, wrecking stores, and looting started to occur. It’s hard to forget the video of the woman leaving Target with two expensive lamps or the dozens of other clips that showed the stores destroyed. Seeing these events happen on social media, then noticing stores around my area start to board their windows and doors, instilled more fear in me because now more than ever it was “F*** THE POLICE.”
Everyone wanted to retaliate after Mr. Floyd was killed; some in more violent ways than most. Social media was filled with anti-police posts and it became very transparent that if you weren’t with BLM, you were against it. I felt very torn. More than ever I was nervous for my parents to go to work at night and for our law enforcement friends and family. I was never “Blue Lives Matter,” but I sure as hell was scared (and still am) for those on duty.
“Every night I left, I was determined to come home in the morning,” my police officer father said to me. “Things got out of hand a little and I worried officers would be put in dangerous situations as a sign of retaliation.”
However, living and working in Hawai’i had a different effect than most.
“Some stores were boarding up, but it wasn’t as crazy as those in the mainland,” noted Holly G, a long-time Hawai’i resident. “I couldn’t imagine living through that and it looked like a scene out of a movie.”
Oh, how easier it would be if it was a movie, right?
NOT ALL COPS ARE BAD COPS
Most can’t stand the thought of cops. They can’t stand their manipulative tendencies, their abuse of power, and their corruption. Not all cops are bad cops though as some are trying to change the system. Some joined the force to change the stereotype.
“I signed up to be a police officer as soon as I was qualified to. All I wanted/want to do is help others and do what’s right,” my father said after asking him about his intentions.
And there are others out there like him too. Standing on the good side of the bad side, caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to serve the community good. Being a cop is a career that many sign up for with good intentions. They are someone’s only parent, someone’s wife, husband, sister, brother, son, daughter, mom, or dad. So no, not all cops are bad cops. Some are trying to change the social norm and keep you safe, but the trust is so far gone that we need a new recovery plan.
THE FUTURE IS ON US
Black lives matter and they always will. We need to get to a place where they truly feel like their lives matter. America’s racist history has ruined lives for too long. So it’s time to make a change.
More minorities are joining the force to change the stereotypes of the police force and to keep the community safe in their own hands. When more police look like the people in the community, it builds a sense of community trust and care.
Additionally, a reformed criminal justice system should be our goal. Law enforcement reform means reevaluating laws, procedures, and employees. It needs to find the root of the issue, remove it, and create a purified system for all. But how do we get there?
It falls to a vote. Voting for local, state, and federal authorities in favor of criminal justice reform can bring about the change we so desperately need. As an individual right for all Americans- vote for change.