African Americans, especially the men and boys, find themselves caught up in a system of law enforcement that still, in 2017, isn’t working for them. I don’t pretend to know how that feels. My experience with law enforcement was usually by way of parties when I was in high school where kids breaking the law by drinking underage or smoking weed weren’t arrested, even when they ran from the cops. Police would tell kids to dump out their beers. They never arrested anyone. Kids mouthed off. Refused to answer the door. Even pushed a police officer on one occasion. No arrests.
The binary of “cops are always good, cops are always bad” that has emerged in recent years isn’t making things better. The truth is, some are really good and some are really bad. And we need to get more comfortable saying that. I’ve watched skilled police officers de-escalate students in ways that I wouldn’t have thought possible. I’ve also seen them escalate tiny ‘nothing’ incidents into situations that have become overblown and even dangerous. And the nation has seen that same escalation lead to the deaths of far too many black men. My own students were screamed at and forced to kneel on the ground with a gun pointed at them – turns out they “fit the description” of someone who had done something wrong nearby. If one of the police hadn’t been an SRO and recognized one of the boys from his former school, I shudder to think what could have happened.
Philando Castile did exactly what he was told to do by police. The transcript of the encounter backs that up. And he still ended up shot and killed on the side of the road. And he left 395 students behind who asking, “How could anyone be afraid of Mr. Phil?”
This short film, Think of Calvin, paints a picture of just how frustrating and unfair an interaction with the police can be, especially when it involves your own child. It also reminds us of the far-reaching and life altering consequences of charging people with crimes that they did not commit. It forces us to put ourselves in the shoes of this family.
Ask yourself as you watch: “What would I have done if this were my son out on his bike?”
And then challenge yourself to care that it’s happening to others who are working hard and raising kids just like you.