Babe Alert: Eris Eady

I first met this amazing young woman when she was in high school. She might’ve been a junior. She was already busting people’s heads in poetry slams all over the city of Cleveland, though. Her poetry was so breathtakingly real, I was either laughing, crying, or hallowing whenever I heard her.

Eris’s gift was – and still is – her genuineness. She is herself to a capital-T. She is unflinchingly honest. She boldly calls out her various communities for their willful faults, and she confesses her own flaws and fears with formidable – yes, at her young age – bravery, vulnerability, intelligence, and wit. She is witty as fuck.

In the years since high school, Eris has made herself into an all-around presence in our city. It wouldn’t shock me if – in the next few years – she ended up in a government office. She has so many of the qualities of a true leader.

Eris is under 35 and already a storyteller, organizer, event planner, promoter, logistical coordinator, trainer, public speaker, coach, curriculum developer, activist, advocate, media, integrator, graduate student, marathon runner, and jewelry designer.

Though she is considerably younger than me, I admire her greatly. I look up to her ambition, commitment, confidence, and authenticity. I adore her writing, and I have a deep affection for her spirit. I respect her candor and refusal to be silenced or shamed.

In a recent blog post, Eris wrote, “The climate of today’s world would lead you to believe that love should not be a priority. I’ve felt pressure as a queer black woman to let my activism and advocacy take priority over love, intimacy, and joy. In doing that, I’ve done myself a huge disservice.”

See what I’m saying?

This woman gets it. She knows what she needs to know.

BABE ALERT Q&A WITH ERIS EADY

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Eris Venia Eady

WHAT ARE YOUR ORIGINS?

My Grandma Alabama, my Granddad Louisiana . . . you mix that Negro with that extra Negro makes a . . . Cleveland girl.

HOW DO IDENTIFY YOURSELF RACIALLY/ETHNICALLY/NATIONALLY? HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF IN TERMS OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY?

A. I consider myself African American. I feel as though it is important to make the distinction that I did not immigrate here. We were snatched and rooted here.

B. I am a Cisgender Bisexual/Queer Woman.

ARE YOU A FEMINIST? IF NO, THEN WHAT TERM DO YOU USE TO DESCRIBE YOUR COMMITMENT TO WOMEN’S ISSUES?

Ehhhh . . . not so much. I do consider myself a Womanist. Feminism is dredged in privilege and founded in academia; it perpetually leaves out black, brown, poor, and, most importantly, trans women.

I also think it is important to note that I don’t like the word “female.” It is often used as an abrasive term that is essentially one “step” up from “bitch.” It’s a dog whistle word that resonates the same way as when white folk say “thug” when they really want to say “nigga.”

WHEN DID “BEING A WOMAN” BECOME POLITICAL FOR YOU? HOW WERE YOU POLITICIZED AS A FEMALE CITIZEN OF THE US?

I was born this way. In fourth grade, a white boy called me “Grease” the entire school year. Also, that year, my teacher threw my spelling book at me. For as long as I can remember, who I am and how I exist in this world has been a problem for the powers that be.

When I was about 26, I was pulled over and arrested, then held for hours while I menstruated on myself. I didn’t fight back. I will always remember that I survived this interaction with the police, and Sandra Bland did not.

WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT AFFECT WOMEN THAT ARE CLOSEST TO YOUR HEART?

Self-love. Reproductive justice, including sexual assault, domestic violence, intra-racial violence, access to abortion, infant mortality (Ohio is literally the worst state in the country for African American infant mortality), and women that are shackled during birth. Economic stability. The life expectancy of trans women of color (it is 33-years-old).

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF OTHER WOMEN IN THIS COUNTRY BETTER? DO YOU HAVE A “PASSION PROJECT” THAT RELATES TO BEING A WOMAN? WHAT IS IT?

I’ve chosen to love myself. Especially when it’s hard. Especially when I’m feeling most unlovable. I am kind to myself. I love my body at every phase and stage. I’m working on a project called “Black Girls Be . . .” It’s a space where black womanhood can exist without borders. Stay turned . . .

WHO ARE SOME OF THE WOMEN THAT HAVE BEEN MOST INFLUENTIAL TO YOU? WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON EVER TAUGHT TO YOU BY A WOMAN?

My mother and grandmothers.

Grandmother taught me to always have a safety pin in my bra.

Big Ma taught me that “you might not have what you want to eat, but you have something to eat.”

Mother taught me to “do what [I] know is right” and “fuck ’em and feed ’em Froot Loops.”

Zora Neale Hurston: “You heard me. You ain’t blind.”

Amy Rosenbluth. Amy taught me the two things that have remained constant in my life: poetry and community service. Without these two things, I’m uncertain who I’d be in this world.

My Golden Girls: my three best friends – Kisha/Rose – a poet’s poet, Jessica/Dorothy – my perfect complement, and Danielle/Sophia – my ram in a bush. She saved me when my high school years were scary and lonely. (I’m Blanche for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.)

My niece Nijah and sister Eriane. Nijah taught me patience, gifted me joy and laughter, and showed me how to explain the vastness of the world in a way that is accessible to tiny humans. Eriane gave me Nijah, which allowed me to truly put into action my love for her.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF ABOUT SURVIVING THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A WOMAN, IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO HER?

As my best friend Jessica always says, “It doesn’t get easier, but it will get better.” [I would tell my 13-year-old self] love yourself unconditionally and without apology.

NOTE FROM EDITOR:

Thank you so much, Eris, for taking the time away from your busy schedule to do this Q&A. Thank you for being one of the beautiful, badass black women that I get to know and from whom I get to draw inspiration and encouragement. Thank you for your art, and thank you for your light.

READERS–You can learn more about Eris and all the amazing work she does at http://www.eriseady.com/about.

You can pre-order Eris’s book Journey to Whole: Excerpts, Essays, and Exhales by clicking on this link.

You can watch Eris read her poem “Dear Tamir” (dedicated to Tamir Rice) by clicking on this link.

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Mind Over Matter: On the Killing of Korryn Gaines

One of the most difficult things to teach students, as an instructor of composition, is how to avoid making sweeping generalizations in their writing.

Take abortion, for instance.

I’ve lost count of how many papers I’ve read with the thesis that “Women shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions because having an abortion is taking the easy way out of being sexually irresponsible.”

This thesis ignores the facts that 1) many women get pregnant while using birth control methods that just happen to fail; 2) many women get pregnant as a result of rape or incest; 3) abortions can be physically damaging to women; 4) many women choose to get abortions because their pregnancies are threatening to kill them; 5) many women choose to get abortions because there is something drastically or even fatally wrong with the fetus; 6) abortions are costly and difficult to obtain under all of the new laws instituted by Republican leaders over the last few years; and 6) the shame and stigmatization that many women suffer after having an abortion can be emotionally and psychologically traumatizing.

Hence, abortion is not easy. It’s complicated. Like most things in life are complicated.

When students engage with issues dogmatically rather than critically, though, they often arrive at theses like this–theses that fail to engage with an issue in the whole of its complexity.

I think that many of us engaged in the struggle against police brutality–as admitted students of its history, sociology, psychology, and criminology–are doing the same sort of thing as we attempt to have a meaningful discourse about Korryn Gaines.

Yes, the killing of this poor young woman, and the shooting of her son, by Baltimore police, is yet another example of how law enforcement in America makes undue victims of black people.

However, this is not an instance in which the police killed an unarmed person for committing a minor infraction.

The conversation that we have about what happened to Korryn and how the police got it wrong shouldn’t be conducted in the same terms as the conversations that we’ve had about Mike Brown or Eric Garner or Sandra Bland.

If anything, it should be more along the lines of the conversations we’ve had about Tamir Rice, but, even then, there’s more to Korryn’s situation than his.

But I understand the desire to keep the paradigm simple.

If we admit that a black person killed by the police might have done any tiny thing to incite the violence used against him or her, then we risk losing the argument that cops are disproportionately and excessively violent towards blacks.

However, if we don’t talk about situations like these in exact and accurate terms, then we risk losing that argument anyway, because we are undermining our credibility.

If we do not stick to facts and logical principles in our discourse about racism in law enforcement and police brutality, we make it that much easier for politicians and pundits to discredit and ignore us.

And the facts are these–

The police had access to court records that indicated that Korryn Gaines had suffered acute lead poisoning, and she had developmental disabilities and brain damage as a result.

This meant that she could not process her dealings with the police or court officials at the sophisticated level necessary to make sounder or safer decisions about how to handle herself.

Developmental disabilities, according to the CDC, include autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability (what we formerly referred to as mental retardation), and various learning disabilities.

Imagine someone with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or a severe learning disability trying to process all the media coverage of the recent spate of racist police murders.

Children often mimic what they see on TV and in movies, and it seems to me that Korryn Gaines was incredibly child-like in her thinking, as a result of her exposure to lead.

She thought she would fight fire with fire, and this would somehow save her from becoming another BLM hashtag whose murder would go unanswered.

Even though black people balk at others’ binary thinking about us, there is an oversimplified binary to which many of us subscribe when thinking about the type of black people we are–

You are either a punk–a disgrace to your people, both intimate and formal–or you are a G.

Punks walk away from fights. They pause to weigh the possible consequences of a confrontation and often decide that they are too risky, so they don’t engage.

They damn pride and ego and opt for safety. They use sensibility and justification to camouflage what many regard as weakness and cowardice. They are said to lack “heart.”

According to the G’s, they’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that there is no winning if you fight The System, so they don’t.

They accept that they are powerless. They choose their lives over their prospective legend.

They don’t care what people say about them, only that people can continue to talk about them in the present tense. As in “He’s a punk.” Rather than “He went out like a G.”

G’s don’t walk away from fights. They don’t flinch at threats. They don’t care who has weapons or what those weapons are.

G’s are hard. They don’t turn their backs on anyone talking shit or getting in their faces. They may not start fights, but they certainly aim to end them.

The only adverse consequence they seem to consider when facing a confrontation is looking like a punk if they opt out of fighting.

They don’t allow fear to dissuade them from doing anything they think will gain them respect or make a point about who they are or what they value.

G’s will stake their lives on their pride or their ego. They fight for survival rather than opting out of a fight in order to survive.

Survival for them, though, is more metaphysical than physical. They care about surviving as a symbol or example, of strength or resistance, rather than living to see another fight.

They choose legendary status over the preservation of their lives.

Tupac was a G. Cleo in “Set It Off” was a G.

Past tense.

There is a miniscule grey area between these two archetypes, but it is a space in which most adult black people navigate.

From what I’ve seen, and read, punks and G’s are people that have experienced exceptional privilege and comfort or exceptional pain and loss. In either case, they’ve developed a skewed sense of how the world works and how they fit into it. If they are not very educated, or they are disabled, or they struggle cognitively, then they are less likely to enact their archetype with any sort of nuance. They are more likely to misunderstand how workable each of the archetypes is. They don’t get that a black person in American will be forced to fight to protect himself or herself, but he or she should do this fighting strategically and with more than brute force and weapons if he or she seeks to make a lasting impact or walk away with his or her life.

When I look at this shooting that just occurred in Baltimore, I can’t help but think of this binary. I can’t help but think that Korryn Gaines took a decidedly adolescent route to dealing with all of her interactions with the police and courts, and, then, when she was forced to be accountable, decided that she would go out like G.

I can imagine this young woman–with her mental capacity–watching all the news coverage of the BLM murders–reading countless tweets and IG and FB posts–and deciding that if the police ever came for her, she would be ready for them.

News reports that I’ve read have even included a link to one of Korryn’s 2015 social media posts, in which she bragged about acquiring the shotgun that she held on the cops on Monday.

“Hope they sending in clones,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’m waiting tho [sic].”

This post doesn’t just convey Korryn’s intense distrust of the police and their willingness to use restraint–her expectation of excessive violence from police and fear of dying at their hands–all of which are perfectly understandable.

It conveys a profound miscalculation of what she could do to protect herself against the police as one woman with one gun. It conveys a deep flawed sense of what is justifiable, plausible, and ultimately in one’s one best self-interest.

It conveys, too, a profound miscalculation of just how deeply entrenched police training and procedure is in the preservation of cops’ lives and the extent to which cops’ racist attitudes can influence their actions.

Now, before anyone gets up in arms about victim-blaming, internalized racism or patriarchy, anti-feminism or anything like that, I want to be clear:

I’m not saying the cop was right to kill Korryn Gaines for the misjudgments and mistakes she made. I don’t believe that.

However, I’m not going to be generalize for the sake of making arguments or points that parallel those made in other discussions of other police victims.

I’m not going to say that the cop that shot Korryn should’ve waited for her to fire her gun before he fired his.

That’s just not realistic.

And I can’t say that I would’ve waited. Even with her son there.

I hate to that this is true, but it’s true. I wouldn’t have waited.

Self-preservation is among the strongest animal impulses, and humans are animals. We have a tremendous gift for objective analysis, but fear cancels out our ability to access that gift at its fullest capacity.

Whatever else Korryn did or didn’t do, she held a shotgun while she was or wasn’t doing it.

She presented a tangible and plausible threat to the lives of the cops inside of her apartment.

Yes, they had SWAT backing them, but I can imagine the cop that shot thinking, “What if they’re not fast enough? What if they miss, and she doesn’t? I don’t want to die.”

These are natural thoughts for someone to have when faced with an overwrought person wielding a weapon.

That said, I don’t think the argument here is that the cop could’ve waited for Korryn to shoot because that’s not an argument that can be won, really.

We can only make assumptions about the truth of the claim that Korryn threatened the police and the actual impetus for the cop’s decision to shoot.

We can’t say for certain how serious a threat to one’s safety a person can endure without making a move to protect him- or herself. That will always depend on the person.

So, no, I don’t think the argument here is that the cop killed Korryn in the same heedless way that the cops in Missouri, New York, Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, and Minnesota killed all the others.

There is the undeniable and very complicated mitigating factor of that shotgun, and it prevents us from defending Korryn in the same way that we defended Mike, Eric, Tamir, Sandra, Alton, and Philando.

I think the argument is that the cops knew, from court documents, that Korryn had developmental disabilities and brain damage, and they made a huge professional mistake in treating her like the “typical” assailant.

I think the argument here is that law enforcement needs to adopt different ways of dealing with people with different intellectual capacities.

I think the argument here is that they probably didn’t employ any alternate methods of dealing with Korryn Gaines, if they knew any, because she was black, she was recording the incident, she had a record, and she had a history of expressing anti-police sentiments on social media.

That’s where the racism and failure to effectively and fairly do their jobs entered into this situation–at the point where the cops’ knowledge of her background should’ve informed their interaction with Korryn.

I don’t know whether the cops dealt with Korryn like someone with a typical intellectual or cognitive capacity because they failed to do their research; they felt “stuck” to procedure; or they allowed racism, sexism, or some other discriminatory attitude to override their empathy or willingness to improvise a peaceful solution.

But I do believe that a white man or woman with Korryn Gaines’s same challenges would’ve been given the opportunity to talk with some sort of intervention specialist before he or she made the mistake issuing a death threat and inciting that cop to kill her.

And that’s the problem–that I can imagine the cops giving that sort of preferential treatment to a white man or woman, for having a psychological or psychiatric issue–not even a cognitive issue.

I don’t even have to imagine it;  there are actual instances in which cops apprehended, without killing, white people with toy guns or real guns and seeming disabilities or mental issues.

However, I can’t imagine them giving this same benefit of the doubt to a black person with a mental issue–putting themselves at risk to keep that person alive.

Tamir Rice wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt, and Korryn Gaines wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt. He was killed. She was killed.

And there’s only one absolute commonality in their situations. They were black suspects. They were more susceptible to racist profiling or stereotyping.

I can’t be sure, but it’s not implausible or improbable that the cops in Baltimore failed to exhaust their options in dealing with Korryn Gaines because they allowed their racist assumptions (that blacks are intrinsically defiant and combative and culturally anti-authority and anti-police) to override their factual knowledge about her particular case.

Nevertheless, in discussing the tragic shooting of Korryn Gaines, I think we need to be precise in saying that this is our grievance–

The cop(s) killed someone that couldn’t fully grasp the ramifications of what she was doing rather than helping her to remain safe, which is their job.

I don’t think we should “lump” Korryn in with the other victims of racist police murders because her case has some very singular, significant factors.

By playing past them, we miss the opportunity to hash out how mental illness or special needs put blacks at an even greater risk of becoming victims of police brutality and the opportunity to fight for interventions and solutions that will help sisters like Korryn and brothers with the same wild cards stacked against them.

 

 

 

Blacks and Blue: About Alton Sterling and Avoiding Police Brutality

I don’t even know what to say. I honestly don’t know what I could say to adequately express how desperate Alton Sterling’s murder makes me feel as a black American.

Here is another black person shot by police that were not in any appreciable mortal danger. Police abusing their power, exploiting their power and the nation’s gaping lethal loopholes. Police betraying their oath of honor. Police playing with culpability like taking a life is a game.

I saw the video. Alton Sterling was not given enough time or space or warning to do something that would’ve de-escalated the conflict in which he found himself inadvertently locked with two police officers.

Like Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and Freddie Grey and Eric Garner, and so many others, he was denied the right to due process and trial by jury; he was indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced to execution by men that were not qualified, hired, or technically allowed to do anything other than arrest him.

Alton Sterling was killed for doing something that a white person would more than likely never even get arrested for doing. Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II stunned him, shoved him to the ground, put him in a hold, and then shot him multiple times in the head and back for selling pirated CDs and having a gun in his pocket.

Alton Sterling had a criminal history of battery and illegal possession of guns, yes, but he did not have a gun out and in his hand. He did not have a gun aimed at Salamoni and Lake when they attacked him.

It is uncertain, too, whether Salamoni and Lake even knew about his priors, though they will probably say they did after this to justify their actions.

The man that made the initial call to the police about Alton Sterling said Alton was selling CDs in front of the Triple S Food Mart on North Foster Drive (Baton Rouge, LA) and had threatened him with a gun. A very vague and convenient complaint to make about a strange black man.

In the video of his murder, Alton Sterling is armed, but he isn’t presenting any imminent danger. He isn’t shooting at Salamoni or Lake. He isn’t attempting to strike one or the other of them. He isn’t attempting to flee the scene. He isn’t even reacting in a verbally violent or confrontational way to the officers. Not that any of these things is punishable by death anyway.

Yet, one of these officers shot him. Salamoni or Lake–because he could–because he wanted to–shot and killed him.

Another black citizen. Another black father. Another black son. A man. A human. Reduced to a lifeless body. A statistic. An example. A headline in the news. A Twitter hashtag. And soon enough a year-old memory in millions of people’s Facebook feeds.

Alton Sterling’s death isn’t right. It isn’t justifiable. It shouldn’t be legal, and it shouldn’t be countenanced by the political establishment or American public, but we know that it will be.

People are already protesting the actions of the police in Baton Rouge–a federal investigation is underway–but the chances that Salamoni or Lake will be convicted for Alton Sterling’s murder are slim to none, and we all know it. We will all somehow accept it.

And I don’t know what I could write that would stop that. I don’t know what I could write that could assuage the ugliness of his murder or pain of his loss in any real way.

I am not some Pulitzer Prize winner. I am a single mother, living in suburban Ohio, trying to make meaning out of this life I’ve been given and cultural legacy I’ve inherited.

I write about things like this because writing is what I’ve always done to help me make sense of things. To help me to process difficult emotions. To make me feel like I have some modicum of power and influence over the world around me.

I write because I love it, but also because I feel like it’s important that people hear the thoughts, ideas, and emotions of a black woman embroiled in the politics of this nation.

As a black person, black feminist, and educator, I feel it’s important to speak up and out and answer oppression and the threat of annihilation with resistance and vitality.

Still, there’s nothing I can say about police murders like that of Alton Sterling that hasn’t already been said and said by people more eloquent and important than me. Except this. This one thing that I want to address not to this nation’s policemen, politicians, or even to the media, but rather to the average American that may be reading this on his or her screen–

I just want to ask you–white, black, or otherwise–to please, please stop calling the police on black people that are not truly–and I mean truly–threatening your life or someone else’s with their actions and/or an actual weapon.

In the ‘hood, it’s the code. Black people, for the most part, don’t involve the police in minor conflicts because they have generally brought a lot of unneeded and unwanted–unproductive–machinations into our communities.

Now, they bring a degree of lethal brutality that is so reminiscent of the Reconstruction era in American history, it’s scary.

So please do not create unnecessary opportunities for trigger-happy officers to murder innocent and/or unarmed people–devastate families and communities–destroy the fabric of public trust in law enforcement and faith in human goodness–and get away with it.

In a December 2014 article about the way American police are trained, a former officer named Seth Stoughton writes:

 . . . American police officers are among the best-trained in the world, but what they’re trained to do is part of the problem.

Police training starts in the academy, where the concept of officer safety is so heavily emphasized that it takes on almost religious significance. Rookie officers are taught what is widely known as the “first rule of law enforcement”: An officer’s overriding goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift. But cops live in a hostile world. They learn that every encounter, every individual is a potential threat. They always have to be on their guard because, as cops often say, “complacency kills.”

Officers aren’t just told about the risks they face. They are shown painfully vivid, heart-wrenching dash-cam footage of officers being beaten, disarmed, or gunned down after a moment of inattention or hesitation. They are told that the primary culprit isn’t the felon on the video, it is the officer’s lack of vigilance. And as they listen to the fallen officer’s last, desperate radio calls for help, every cop in the room is thinking exactly the same thing: “I won’t ever let that happen to me.” That’s the point of the training.

Stoughton goes on to say:

More pointed lessons come in the form of hands-on exercises . . . There are countless variations, but the lessons are the same: Hesitation can be fatal. So officers are trained to shoot before a threat is fully realized, to not wait until the last minute because the last minute may be too late.

But what about the consequences of a mistake? After all, that dark object in the suspect’s hands could be a wallet, not a gun. The occasional training scenario may even make that point. But officers are taught that the risks of mistake are less—far less—than the risks of hesitation. A common phrase among cops pretty much sums it up: “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

It’s important that we as Americans understand and accept this ugly truth: Police are not trained to put our safety first or even the so-called duties of the job in the forefront of their decisions and actions.

They are taught to do as much enforcing of the law as they can as they work as hard as they can to ensure that they are not hurt. They are trained, expected, and encouraged to put themselves before the people they protect and the communities they serve.

This is a drastically different concept of a police officer’s duties than the concept propagated in grade school classes, political public relations, and the media.

The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor states:

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the Constitution,
my community and the agency I serve.

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “courage” in the context of the oath means “having the strength to withstand unethical pressure, fear or danger.”

So a police officer that shoots before a threat is fully realized may be doing what he or she is trained to do–he or she may even be doing what most people would do–but he or she is also displacing his or her duty.

Police, when they take the oath to become officers, are essentially saying that they will attempt to be exceptional–helpful, ethical, brave, and responsible for the safety of others–for the sake of their profession.

If we know, though, that police officers on the whole do not take the oath as seriously as they take the principles of their training then we have to react to them like the posers and sometime sadists and opportunists that they are.

Stoughton writes:

In most police shootings, officers don’t shoot out of anger or frustration or hatred. They shoot because they are afraid. And they are afraid because they are constantly barraged with the message that that they should be afraid, that their survival depends on it. Not only do officers hear it in formal training, they also hear it informally from supervisors and older officers. They talk about it with their peers. They see it on police forums and law enforcement publications . . . Officers’ actions are grounded in their expectations, and they are taught to expect the worst.

And I say–so, too, should we as citizens when it comes to calling on police officers for help.

According to statistics, cops are assaulted in o.o9% of all interactions (63 million total) each year. Only 0.02% are injured and 0.00008% are killed.

Some might say this is because they are vigilant about protecting themselves, and, that may be true, but this reasoning goes against the purpose of law enforcement, which is, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the “prevention, detection, and investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders.”

I say–if cops are trained to prioritize themselves and not the job then we civilians should probably train ourselves, in direct and appropriate response, not to trust them.

We may even be safer, especially we black folk, if we commit on a wide scale to calling the police less often to apprehend people that are not posing a lethal threat.

That is since “officers use more force when they perceive a greater threat, [and] unconscious bias can lead officers to react more aggressively when confronting black men than they would when confronting others in otherwise identical situations.”

Either way, we need–Americans collectively–to acknowledge, for our own good, that many police officers are nothing but armed, narrowly skilled customer service workers that will only do what they must to keep their jobs.

We need to stop viewing them across the board as heroes that have learned to stop their emotions and biases from getting in the way of their work, and we need to stop relying on them to handle situations that are really just annoying or make us uncomfortable or intimidated but are not life-threatening.

The person that called the police on Tamir Rice told the dispatcher that Tamir was a minor, and he was probably playing with a toy gun. He or she probably felt uncomfortable with the imagery of the young black boy with the real-looking air rifle and wanted to “erase” it from his or her environment, but didn’t feel entitled or confident enough as an adult or member of the community to approach Tamir and tell him so.

Calling the police probably seemed logical to him or her because the police are supposed to handle nuisances. However, in the current climate, it might just have been better for the caller to find Tamir’s mother and talk with her about Tamir or even leave the park.

Calling the police drew a cop with a terrible record and obvious lack of interest in following procedure or keeping peace to the scene, where he shot and killed Tamir without even attempting to question or disarm him.

Mike Brown allegedly stole a couple packs of cigarillos from a convenience store, prompting the clerk to call the police on him.

No–Brown shouldn’t have been stealing, but there is actually such a thing as crime insurance which manages businesses’ loss exposures from criminal activities like thefts.

This means the owner of the convenience store could’ve gotten back the money for the shrink to which Mike contributed by filing a claim with his insurance company.

So the clerk didn’t have to call Darren Wilson to the scene of such a minor crime. He didn’t have to set Mike on the path to get 12 bullets fatally pumped into him.

The law stipulates the penalties for minor crimes like Alton’s and Mike’s, the Constitution stipulates the treatment they should receive as suspects, but police like Wilson and the officers in Cleveland and Baton Rouge ignore these stipulations.

Because they can, and there are no stiff or lingering consequences, they take the law into their own hands.

So maybe the most realistic solution to this problem is that we–the citizenry–take things into our own hands as well and try to address the problem of police brutality among ourselves.

And before you balk at what I’m asking–before you accuse me of asking too much or being completely unrealistic–please hear me out:

I’m not asking people to risk their safety in the face of plausible threats or drawn weapons. That wouldn’t make any sense.

I’m just asking that we start to think long and hard about how obsessive we are about our possessions and property and moralistic we are about other people’s behavior and how that translates into what we expect and want from police.

I think we can spend to take some time and think long and hard about the real reasons we call the police when we call them and whether we are placing more value on things or money than people if and when we do.

Human lives are more valuable than any commodities or material items we can buy or own, and we need to regard them that way, not as collateral damage in the war to amass wealth or campaign to prove our moral superiority.

In the interest of keeping ourselves and others safe from the dangerous consequences of police officers’ skewed training, perhaps we should only call the police when it’s absolutely necessary, especially if we are calling them to detain a person that isn’t posing a lethal threat to us.

Perhaps in doing this, we can decrease the chances of someone getting murdered by some cop not properly schooled in de-escalation, tactical withdrawal, or thinking beyond his or her gun belt.

It’s probably unreasonable to make this request of average American citizens, I acknowledge that.

The way I see it, though, we’re the only ones that seem to care about how murderous police procedures have become in this country.

So, I ask again: please stop calling the police on black people that are not truly threatening your life or someone else’s with their actions or a deadly weapon.

As a fellow citizen, and human, help take away some of law enforcement’s power to destroy black lives.

It may sound a bit anarchistic, turning away from the cops like this, but, if cops won’t uphold their oath, then I want to know: Why should we uphold the false image we have of them?

Why should we drag ourselves into collusion with them to needlessly take other people’s lives?

Why should we keep allowing them to get bolder and bolder until we mess round and one day become their victims?

If all lives matter then black lives are included in that, and people outside of the black community should want to fight for them just as hard as they fight for their own.