Despite the many calls for change, Black individuals continue to be unjustly killed by the police—it must stop
Last Sunday afternoon, another Black individual died at the hands of a police officer. An encounter from a traffic violation was all it took for Daunte Wright to be fatally shot. Expired registration tags, an arrest warrant and air fresheners hanging in a rearview mirror are not reasons to end a person’s life.
Wright’s death was avoidable. If an unarmed officer had handled the traffic stop, today Wright’s son would continue to have a living father. Instead last Sunday, the police officer mistook her gun for a taser. “Oh s***. I shot him” were her words, and his life was gone—a fate all too similar to many other Black Americans such as Philando Castile, who was fatally shot in 2016 after being stopped for a broken tail light in the Minneapolis area.
Wright was also fatally shot near Minneapolis, a city where Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd in 2020, awaits trial. Floyd’s girlfriend was Wright’s former high school teacher; although this may seem incidental, it demonstrates the collective trauma that generations of Black Americans continue to face.
How many Black lives must be lost before real change occurs? With racism rooted so deeply into American law and politics, the Editorial Board strongly supports Black Lives Matter (BLM) and its work to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes,” as well as other like-minded individuals and organizations. We understand there is a systemic problem in the American law enforcement system and we demand change.
Within the past year, 991 people have been shot and killed by the police, according to The Washington Post’s log of fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in the U.S as of April 12. This follows a trend tracked since 2015; close to 1,000 people are killed every year by on-duty police officers. Both Black and Hispanic Americans are killed by the police at a disproportionately high rate. Even though Black Americans account for less than 13% of the U.S. population, they are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.
Yet, some individuals remain uninformed. “All lives matter” and “blue lives matter” groups disrespect and undermine the BLM movement. Such people choose to ignore the fact that “Black lives matter” does not mean that Black lives matter more—it means their lives matter just as much as white individuals who have the privilege of rarely fearing for their lives in confrontations with police officers.
Communicating with people who disregard the necessity of the BLM movement can be frustrating and challenging. But sometimes these conversations can’t be avoided; in that case, the burden of dispelling racist ideology should not fall exclusively on those most affected by racism. The responsibility should fall on non-Black allies of the BLM movement to engage in this discourse when they witness racist behavior and language.
On the individual level, holding these critical conversations, as well as educating and training oneself to be a conscious media consumer help fuel change. Individuals must learn to proactively seek out credible sources. While many publications work to provide sound and reliable news, consumers must be critical of what they see by fact-checking information with other sources and also understanding inherent biases in reporting. This is especially prevalent with BLM and police brutality coverage, as content differs depending on the political lean of the publication.
Staying informed is not enough, however, to make a meaningful contribution to reform. Despite the colorful infographics dotting social media stories, speaker events and protests widely covered by the media, Black individuals continue to be unjustly murdered by police officers. It is becoming more and more clear: real systemic change in the law enforcement industry is crucial to save lives.
On a local level, the Editorial Board appreciates the recent steps toward police reform in Davis. More than 500 community members and dozens of local organizations signed a letter calling for a new, independent department to conduct unarmed welfare checks, noise complaints, code enforcement and homeless outreach instead of armed Davis police officers. The letter was delivered to Davis City Hall on April 5.
On Tuesday night, the Davis City Council voted unanimously to move the city’s homeless services program from the Davis Police Department to the city manager’s office. More change may come in the future, as a subcommittee of Mayor Gloria Partida and Councilman Will Arnold are currently looking to reassign other city services currently handled by the police.
City-wide change is just the beginning. In order to stop the wrongful killings of Black individuals in this country, we need state and federal restructuring of the policing system in the form of disarming officers and defunding law enforcement programs. People must educate themselves by consuming media that details the truth about police brutality.
Wright was a man pulled over because of a traffic violation. A man the same age as many members of the Editorial Board. A man whose son will grow up without his father. A man who did not deserve to die. How many Black lives must be lost before real change occurs?
Written by: The Editorial Board