Sixteen-year-old Brooklyn resident Kimani “Kiki” Gray may or may not have had a gun on him the night he was killed in East Flatbush on March 9.
The police who approached Gray and his friends and shot Gray seven times — three times in the back — may or may not have identified themselves to the teen as law enforcement officers before they killed him.
The revolution may or may not be happening in the form of riots.
Over 46 people have been arrested in reactionary protests happening across Brooklyn communities, leading many in the media to ask from where all the anger is coming.
For so many who have never had firsthand experience with police brutality, mistrust or strained relations with law enforcement, the answer to the cause of all the riots remains unclear. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
In Spike Lee’s 1989 film, “Do the Right Thing,” (spoiler alert, but really, you should have seen it by now) one of the film’s most treasured and respected Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, community members, Radio Raheem, is killed after being strangled to death by police officers who responded to Radio’s attempt to boycott the neighborhood pizzeria.
Mookie, the film’s main character, who has up until this point dealt with his neighborhood’s racism and prejudices in a calm and “civilized” manner, throws a trash can through the window of the pizzeria, igniting a community-wide riot.
But who says riots and the motives behind them aren’t “civilized?”
On March 14, the NYPD recorded its five millionth “stop-and-frisk” search since statistics began being compiled back in 2002.
According to TakePart.com, “Of those five million, 86 percent searched were black or Latino. Eighty-eight percent of the searches, or 4.4 million, discovered absolutely no evidence of impropriety.
In a March 14 HuffPost Live video segment regarding the murder of Kimani Gray, actor Gbenga Akinnagbe painted a truth that is ever-so-clear to those rioting: “This isn’t new, this isn’t unique, this will happen again.”
Where is the anger coming from? We’re losing loved ones by the minute because of what they look like and what they’re wearing. We’re tired. We’re angry.
We’ve seen it with Kimani Gray; we’ve seen it with Trayvon Martin; we’ve seen it with so many others whose names have been relegated to the print below the headlines. We cannot stand for it any longer.
Police officers are the most prominent and easily-understood symbols of law enforcement, which means that any acts or protests against their practices can easily be portrayed as being negative, failed or worthless. Unless we fight for truth, the law can paint any picture they want to and that includes the way in which someone was killed.
Maybe there isn’t enough being done to combat police brutality or enough efforts in play to find solutions to police-community relations. Something different needs to happen, and it won’t come from sitting on the sidelines.
What does it mean that so many have mistrust and disconnection with the police? Who and what communities are the police “serving?”
HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill mentioned the criminalization of young people, stating that it has become normal to “think of young people as small criminals.”
Akinnagbe interrupted, “We don’t think of young people as small criminals. We think of young black people as small criminals. We think of young Puerto Rican people as small criminals.”
So who is being protected and who is being criminalized?
Police officers will do what they are ordered and trained to do, and sometimes that means shooting now and thinking later. If we want to make positive strides, everyone — communities and police alike — is going to have to work together (and in a different direction) to make sure the thinking happens first.
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