As police made their first arrest in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP said it is imperative to be on the battlefield for justice.
A video depicting Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed firmly on the black man's neck earlier this week has sparked nationwide outrage. Chauvin, who was arrested Friday, and three other officers in the video have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department; the case remain under investigation.
Twin City NAACP Branch President Linda Foster said when she saw the video, she was hurt, but not surprised.
“I thought, ‘Here we go again,’” said Foster. “It felt like a movie that never ends in our favor.”
African Americans are three times as likely to be killed by the police than white people in the United States, according to the Mapping Police Violence project. Local NAACP Vice President Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson said if it weren’t for today’s technology, many other incidents would go unknown.
“Who knows how many times this has occurred? We're just so fortunate now that we all have smartphones so now we can document it. But I am willing to guess that this occurs more often than we think,” Campbell-Jackson said. “When you think this could have been any of our brothers, fathers, sons, or nephews, and it's all based on the pigmentation of the skin. It's hurtful, and it's not right.”
Foster said as brutality and killings have persisted, African Americans have reached their breaking point and have decided to use their phones to ensure protection.
“The police department has video and cameras and it is for their protection and to ensure they have accurate information, so if they’ve been allowed to do it, why shouldn’t civilians be allowed to do it, too?” said Foster. “I think over time hearing the things that have happened to African Americans, all we did was hear, but now we’re able to see.”
As killings captured on camera have increased, Campbell-Jackson said it all goes back to white privilege.
“The nonchalant behavior leads me to believe that a lot of this is based on the premise of white privilege,” she said. “They are so privileged that they can kill African Americans in cold blood and not even care that there are six or seven cameras out. That’s privilege. They have other advantages over us, and I think African American men are realizing the playing field is nothing like leveled, so they attempt to record some of these actions and they are tired.”
Having ‘The Talk’
In the black community, a sad but imperative discussion held by black parents and family members with their sons about the police is called “The Talk.” Explaining how she had to prepare her son for police encounters out of fear that he may be attacked, Campbell-Jackson said her white peers couldn’t imagine having to have that same conversation with their children.
“The talk is, when you turn 16 and when you start driving, you do not reach for your driver's license or go for your insurance card until you ask, ‘Mr. Officer, may I please do this?’” she said. “While (my son) Bradley and his friend who happens to be white were talking about this while we were all together, the white mom said, ‘Oh my God, I've never had that conversation. What’s that?’ They can't imagine what we have to prepare our young men for, but it's a reality. And as mad as we are, we want our kids to live.”
“Both of them can kill us, COVID-19 and racism,” Foster said. “Our issues, once again, are compounded by the typical issues that people contend with, and that's problematic.”
As distrust between African Americans and police officers have become more evident, Campbell- Jackson said the best thing local police departments can do is incorporate cultural competence.
“Our president scheduled a town hall meeting just last week, and all three of the police chiefs were present and committed. So I believe we have those relationships and we know there's still opportunities for them to be culturally competent,” she said. “That cultural competence is huge, because if they don't understand our language or know that when a black man is screaming out for mama that he’s in distress, then they probably don't think it's a big deal.”
For white Americans, Campbell-Jackson said it is not enough just to not be racist.
“What I often tell my white colleagues is that if you're not courageous and bold enough to say what happened is wrong and you don’t come out here to partner up with us, then sometimes omission is as guilty as commission,” she said. “If you’re not bold enough to stand up for something, you'll be willing to fall for anything, and it takes courage to do what we do because we know some people aren't gonna like what we're saying. But it's real talk and it's conversation that people need to have about racism, discrimination, and white privilege.”
Moving forward, Campbell-Jackson said the best thing everyone can do is to come to a cultural understanding and speak up.
“For there to be something this important going on and people being silent about it, it’s almost complacent. If you don't have a conversation with your children at the table and say, ‘OK, what you see is wrong,’ you're just part of the problem.” Campbell-Jackson said. “We can't be innocent bystanders and think, ‘Oh, this is just one incident.’ There has to be a remedy and we have to come together and commit to making the change.”
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