I want to respond to a recent letter to the editor that discussed compliance and police reform. In an ideal world, I would agree with the author. Yet, we are not living in a perfect world. We are living in a divisive country that was founded on a history of exploiting marginalized communities. This exploitation continues today in a range of areas, including traffic stops and excessive force in communities. This pattern has taught many individuals to be untrusting of the very public servants whose job description is to serve and protect, and yet statistically this is not what happens.
It’s extremely problematic when we see individuals such as Kyle Rittenhouse being protected and encouraged by police officers, while Adam Toledo, who did comply and was shot anyway. Dylann Roof received Burger King after his arrest for killing nine people at a South Carolina church, yet (innocent) friends of mine have been handcuffed and put on the ground before questions were asked. Simply complying is an oversimplification that ignores the reality that communities of color face daily.
I grew up in Chester, sheltered from the realities that so many others have lived with for generations. It takes exposure, education and an open heart and mind to truly understand what others experience and the fear that exists when the police are involved. I understand and respect that there are good and respectful police officers in the world and that stressful situations arise. I fully support the reorganization of police departments that allow for additional support and services. Still, the reality is that when the snapping point comes, it tends to be persons of color that are on the other side of that breaking point.
Research shows that black drivers are more like to be pulled over than their white counterparts and are searched 1.5 to 2 times as often as white drivers. Statistics show that from 2015 to March 2021 fatal police shootings impacted black individuals more than twice as often as white persons. Furthermore our prisons are filled with black and brown bodies, not because they commit more crimes.
Educating people to comply ignores the systemic problems that plague our country. The education needs to go deeper than simply telling people to comply. What do we want? We want reform. We want racial profiling to stop. We want society to understand that the deep seeded need for change. It is only from secure privilege that one could suggest compliance to solve a severe and historical problem. “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.”
Dr. Tamara White
Berkeley and Chester, CA