Cannon: Police brutality, prejudice and White allyship

“Man, did you see that video of them cops beating that kid in Euclid?”

My Facebook inbox was flooded with unread messages on the afternoon of Aug. 18. Unbeknownst to me, bystanders had recently uploaded a video of Euclid police officers assaulting Richard Hubbard III.

The 25-year-old is seen being grabbed, forced to the ground and punched repeated by the arresting officers. Hubbard is black, while the officer brutalizing him is white.  The video would eventually go viral, sparking local and national outrage over the conduct of the officers. A unity march was recently held last Saturday in Euclid to ease tensions, but that’s honestly not enough.

I am so tired.

For people of color, specifically blacks and Latinos, police officers don’t hold the universal symbolism of protectors. This isn’t to say that there aren’t hard-working or good-natured officers out there, but many of our communities have been maimed by the actions of crooked cops.

There are plenty of first-hand reports of police brutality, and it can be really difficult to accept that as an outsider.

I grew up in a neighborhood where drug dealers paid off police officers. I grew up in a neighborhood where a cop would empty an entire clip into your back if you decided to run away. I grew up in a neighborhood where cops would pay little attention to the women of color that went missing. I grew up in a neighborhood where a cop might crack your head open with a pistol for disobeying a simple command or questioning his authority.

How many more black and brown bodies do we need to see mangled by new forms of modern-day lynchings before we’ve had enough?

You know what’s crazy? My experiences didn’t change when I moved to the suburbs, they got worse: I was constantly profiled. I was constantly accused of stealing or using drugs. I was constantly searched and patted down. I was constantly belittled and stripped of my humanity.

My father is white. My mother is Moroccan.

I remember my dad talking to me as a kid, making sure that I understood that police officers would treat me differently. He told me to follow their commands. He told me to place my hands outward, palms facing up, so the officers could tell that I wasn’t holding a weapon. He told me to talk as little as possible. He told me not to make sudden movements.

What did your parents teach you?

I had so much anger in my heart, and remnants of that rage still exist, but I’ve learned to express it more constructively by participating in social activism.

I realize the importance of nonviolence and its subtlety, but I believe that we must use more strident and straightforward rhetoric. Holding hands and singing songs does nothing to challenge a police subculture that has consistently dehumanized African Americans and Latinxs. It does nothing to undo the systematic infrastructure of the prison–industrial complex. It does nothing to undo the blue wall of silence, a documented phenomenon within police subculture that ensures that officers won’t snitch on their peers for misconduct.

Your solidarity is valued, but our white allies must be just as dedicated to deconstructing all forms of institutionalized discrimination perpetuated by their own communities.

Your presence at marches is significant, but what’s even more significant is speaking out against the toxicity of police subculture. Urge your representatives to offer an improved curriculum for training police officers. Speak out against legislation that is camouflaged by the coded language of racism. If you are in a sociopolitical position of privilege, then you are obligated to instill equity.

Activism is much more than sharing a post on Facebook or showing up at a rally for unity.

I understand the importance of unity and patience, but I will not be coerced into embracing the politics of respectability. We can’t always afford to be kind to all of our oppressors. Why would we waste time to alter the mindsets of an audience that lacks a conscience? I can assure you that my generation will not always be willing to advocate the sentiment of nonviolence.

The case of Hubbard’s beating by police officers has become a regular occurrence in the United States. I’m not even shocked by viral videos of people of color being beaten or murdered by officers. The arresting officer in Hubbard’s was suspended, but how is that punishment equivalent to an unjustifiable beating?

When will we have justice? When will police officers be our protectors?

I want peace. I want balance. I want freedom.

I’m just not so sure if my fellow countrymen and countrywomen want the same for me.

Christopher Cannon is a third-year student studying English and history.