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COMMENT: Another black American killed by the hands of a police officer?

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African-American student Gabrielle Hansford has her say on the deaths of black people by the hands of the American police force after reading this article by the Independent.

The last video was just too much. Whilst staring at my laptop and the images flickering past, I could feel my blood boil and a lump building deep in my throat. This one had me on the verge of tears and feeling numb at the same time.

It was another black man, Terence Crutcher, being shot and killed by police. His hands were raised above his head and he was unarmed, but it wasn’t enough to keep his life.

But this isn’t anything new, we have seen this happen time and time again. To me these killings are no different than a lynching that took place 200 years ago during slavery in America, or in the 20s, 40s, or 60s; the only thing is now we can see it happening right before our eyes. I have seen this happen before: to Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and many more. But maybe this time I just felt really helpless.

Every time I hope and pray that it doesn’t happen again. I hope that the next person who gets pulled over or just standing around is extra nice to the police, does everything really slowly and polite, and just maybe it won’t happen again. But it seems like even if you lay on the ground with your hands in the air like Charles Kinsey in Florida, or sit in your truck outside your child’s school like Keith Lamont, you can fall victim to a gunshot wound and/or have your life taken away by the people who are sworn to protect you.

I have always respected authority and police officers especially. All the way to the point where I clench up when I hear sirens when I am sitting in the car, and double check my seatbelt and make  sure I don’t make eye contact with an officer in a patrol car. That respect I always had is more like a fear, especially now I am aware of what they can do and get away with.

Image credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7680/17139348288_0185171efb_b.jpg

Of course not all cops are bad, but many people such as myself are fed up with justice not being served to the ones who fall victim to their actions and question whether their actions are born out of hate, racism and/or a fear of black people.

An officer told 26-year-old teacher Breaion King in a video from the back of a patrol car that black people have violent tendencies. If that is the case then why was Eric Garner put in a choke hold and saying “I can’t breathe?” I feel that the punishment must fit the crime, if and only if one was committed. But, since when is selling loose cigarettes worth getting the death penalty?

It just seems like these situations only repeat themselves. Someone gets killed unjustly and then there are protests and riots. But the protests don’t prevent the next situation from happening, neither do riots, nor telling the communities affected that your thoughts and prayers go to the family who lost their loved one.

But I refuse to be afraid of the police. I refuse to live in fear that someone can take my life and get away with it just because they wear a badge. I won’t stand for that like Colin Kapernick. I want freedom to live in the land of the free and home of the brave. I want to be able to walk through the streets of America and be black and proud. That is why I choose to be the change I want to see in my country. I want to be the love that I want to see in America. So I will use my voice and call out injustice when I see it and not be silent because it makes people uncomfortable. Ignorance may be bliss but now its too hard to not be aware of what is going on.

America has been well acquainted with hate and racism for far too long but I can’t just settle here regardless how far we have come. We African Americans can sit on the bus wherever we please, drink from the same water fountains as white Americans and vote, all after the long hard fight of the Civil Rights Movement. But it seems that the African Americans right to life seems to be taken away from them in an instant even if they did nothing wrong.

We still have a ways to go and this will need to come from reform of the police, justice and prison systems if we want to see real progress. Change won’t come over night though, the civil rights movement lasted over 14 years. But what we Americans can change now is how we treat each other on the regular. We must  respect each other regardless of our differences, whether it be our culture or skin color. We need to be kind and compassionate to one another, even in the midst of anger and frustration over circumstances we find difficult to change, the love you show will surely inspire and spread on and on. And it may spread on to the next police officer, the next teacher and even a future president who will be the change that we always hoped for.

Words by Gabrielle Hansford

Sarah and Liam are your lifestyle editors.

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