Once the hash tags stop trending, once the civil unrest dies down and all of the elections are over what comes next?
Amid the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry and George Floyd not only have many citizens of the US taken to the streets to demand change, but so too have sympathizers in many other countries. Contrary to popular belief, the outrage isn’t solely about police killings. The outrage is about the blatant continuing systemic racism and classism that has plagued this country for centuries. The people of the world are tired.
More city, state, and federal governments are standing up, taking notice, and are asking the question “What is it that the people want specifically?” I have a few ideas I believe we can all rally around.
We need to completely overhaul our criminal justice system, reevaluate our school systems and have immediate bias training of medical personnel as a start to bringing about tangible lasting change.
Defunding The Police
While many are calling for the defunding of our heavily militarized police forces, this is being misconstrued as meaning disbanding the police altogether. Many of us understand the need for police. What we don’t understand is how minor traffic stops, calls for help with a mentally disabled person, or nonviolent crimes such as selling loose cigarettes turn fatal for citizens.
- Considering that there were 48 felonious deaths of US police officers in 2019 according to FBI statistics, only 6 of the 48 died during a routine traffic stop. If out of 20,000,000 traffic stops per year 6 times officers are fatally wounded, that means there are 19,999,994 times when they’re not. Yet there still have been countless unarmed citizens murdered or jailed for routine traffic stops.
We need guidelines that make it mandatory for every police officer in the US to have both body and dash cams. It needs to be an immediately punishable offence for an officer to pull a gun during a routine traffic stop unless they are in visibly clear and present danger. Tasers and pepper spray should be a cops first weapons of choice for routine traffic stops considering that 19,999,994 times the driver doesn’t pose an immediate threat. Take some of the money used to fund the militarized police force and allocate it to civilian oversight committees that review the body and dash cams of police involved in routine traffic stops that escalate to murder or arrest. Give that committee the power to decide whether or not the policeman acted appropriately and if not, there needs to be immediate action taken. If this were already the case, Philando Castile would still be alive.
Furthermore, police shouldn’t be allowed to force citizens from their car, jail citizens, or search their vehicles as a result of a routine traffic stop unless they clearly attempt to do the officer physical harm, have an active warrant for their arrest, or are proven to be under the influence. Not just because they are annoyed by the person’s attitude. Again, take some of the money used to fund the militarized police force in America and allocate it to funding a civilian oversight committee to review these cases. If this were already the case, Sandra Bland would still be alive.
- According to a study done by the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police then the general population. When these people are unarmed and clearly in need of psychiatric attention, why would the police response be to draw their firearms? The Right Care program implemented in Dallas, Texas should be a federally mandated standard. The program calls for an officer, a paramedic, and a mental health social worker to ride to the call together in an effort to get the individual the help they really need. More cities across America need to allocate funds away from the militarization of its police force to fund programs like Right Care If this were the case, Anthony Hill would still be alive.
- Selling loose cigarettes or peddling your own CDs are misdemeanor offenses usually punishable by a fine. So why do police need to make arrests in these situations? The police should be equipped to issue fines in both scenarios and allow these individuals to have their day in court as opposed to escalating situations, which should have only resulted in a fine, to the point of causing the death of unarmed civilians. Here’s another instance where we need to take some of the money used to fund the militarized police force and allocate it to funding a civilian oversight committee to review instances that were needlessly escalated beyond simply giving a fine. If this were already the case, both Eric Garner and Alton Sterling would still be alive.
- Knowing the obligations of various states to the contracts they’ve made with the private prison industry, it is widely known that states are bound by quotas they need to meet to keep the prisons at a certain capacity. Having a contract bound quota to keep a private prison filled with inmates obviously plays a large part in why police forces would be so incentivized to escalate situations. Unnecessarily escalating situations in order to arrest more nonviolent citizens more easily fills these quotas. We want an end to the industrialized prison complex. A government that has promised to keep prisons full of American citizens for the financial gain of investors is quite obviously not a system aimed at protecting those very same American citizens. No more contracts between government and private prisons. If this were already the case maybe the police, who had received no call nor had witnessed any crime taking place, wouldn’t have felt the need to chase and violently arrest Freddie Gray and he would still be alive.
- Allocate some of the funds used to fund these supposed “Keepers of the peace” to making sure they are mentally and emotionally healthy enough to do this job. Along with initial mental and emotional health evaluations for those entering the force, use some of these funds to pay for third party psychiatric evaluations of officers at a minimum of every six months, although quarterly would be even better. Allow third part evaluators the ability to possibly catch officers exhibiting questionable mental fitness as it pertains to their likelihood of unnecessarily escalating situations they are involved in as opposed to deescalating situations. If this were already the case, an evaluator may have caught on to Jason Van Dyke. Seeing a person suspected of committing a nonviolent crime walking away from him as so much of a threat that even after shooting this person and them falling to the ground, he still perceived enough of a threat as to pause, then resume shooting the person while he already lie dying on the ground. Maybe Laquan McDonald would still be alive.
Track and hold judges who show clear biases as regards to sentencing accountable. The video “Same Crime Different Sentence” shows the inequality in the criminal sentences black offenders often receive compared to their white counterparts. Lamar Lloyd and Chase Legleiter both committed the same crime, both plead no contest, both had one prior misdemeanor on their respective records, both had 138.2 sentence points under Florida’s sentencing point system. Both went before Judicial Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer. Lamar Lloyd was sentenced to 26yrs in state prison while Chase Legleiter was given time served for the 2yrs he’d spent in prison. Some sources say a simple investigation into Judge Bauer would reveal that he has a lengthy record of imposing harsher sentences on black offenders.
Black men on average receive sentences 20% longer than their white counterparts which should come as no surprise to the federal government, because it was the US sentencing commission who conducted the study that presented the findings. Once United States VS Booker allowed for judges to enhance jail sentences according to their personal judgement as opposed to standard guidelines, it opened the door for stereotypes and personal biases to determine the length of a person’s sentence. If it is the belief of the Supreme Court Judges that made this decision that all races would be treated fairly, then it was negligent not to include oversight of how those personal judgments were being applied.
We are well aware that defunding the police and allocating some of those funds to other resources is not the only change that needs to come. Many disparities we have experienced in this country come by way of education. There are children who do their best in school, get good grades, then graduate high school only to find out that their first year in college won’t count towards their degree. Why is this? The education they received was so deficient that they need to spend a year taking prerequisites just to get them ready for their actual college studies. How can this be happening in the “Greatest country in the world”?
One of the problems at the forefront of this disparity is the impracticality of currently used of standardized tests. Many parents have seen the negative effects of the way standardized testing is being used as more than just a gauge of a student’s progress. There have been countless articles written and studies performed that show in order for students to be most successful at standardized tests, they have to be able to afford all of the required course materials that teach for that specific test. These test change often, so reusing text books from previous years is often not helpful. If you have grown up poor, and have attended a school with limited resources, chances are those schools couldn’t afford the curriculum for the standardized tests you were given.
Even if the school couldn’t afford the proper curriculum, the teachers and ultimately the school are still held accountable for how well students do on these tests. For students who consistently don’t do well on these tests, as a direct result of not being properly equipped with the materials they need, they are labeled as being learning deficient. Being labeled as learning deficient comes with a whole new set of hurdles for these children to climb.
Teaching to pass the standardized tests has become the priority of many schools. Taking a backseat to teaching for the test is the individuality of the students, the various learning styles of the students, and the emotional health of the students. The individuality of the students matter because While Susie may be ready to move on to Algebra 2, Thomas may feel the need to first gain greater confidence in his mastery of Algebra 1. Since we need to keep it moving because we have a lot more to cram in before we start testing, the teacher moves the class forward. Thomas has the option of getting up early and coming to school before his peers for tutoring, or staying behind after his peers have all gone home for tutoring.
Meanwhile, because the class has moved on, he has to try to simultaneously master both Algerbra 1 and 2 at the same time or risk beginning to fall significantly behind his class. This leads to Thomas becoming frustrated because he’s already getting up earlier than everybody else to be tutored. He’s staying in the house when he gets home while all of his friends are outside playing because its taking him till bedtime to get through all of his homework. Some of which, he still can’t get through. How long do you think it will be before Thomas falls far enough behind and becomes frustrated enough that he gives up altogether?
A one size fit all approach does not work in education. Teaching to test as opposed to teaching for retention does not work. There needs to be a system of establishing education practices that accommodate a wider range of learners. We need to adopt a more inclusive process model of learning instead of the product model we currently work. The current product model has only been established to further the profits of the top three standardized test publishers who just so happen to also be the top three curriculum publishers. We need to implement learner centered curriculum which caters more to the individual child. The subject centered curriculum found in most public schools, especially those located in lower income neighborhoods, is obviously failing our children. Task our school systems with creating and implementing, learning centered curriculum, then and administering standardized tests based on that curriculum.
Anyone who has viewed the Healthcare Triage video titled “Racial Disparities In Healthcare Are Pervasive“, or the Baltimore TEDx Talk given by Lisa Cooper titled “Tackling Ethnic Health Disparities“, which is one of many TEDx Talks on the topic, know and understand that a very large factor in healthcare inequality is implicit bias. We need the implementation of mandatory implicit bias training for ALL medical personnel. Study after study has been conducted on racial disparity and the implicit bias of medical personnel. All have proven that the racial disparities that exist in healthcare are more often than not driven by these implicit biases. While study after study has been published, very little has been done in the states and nothing has been done at the federal level to correct this.
California has passed legislation requiring hospitals and birthing centers to implement evidence based implicit bias training programs in an effort to reduce the higher mortality rate for black women giving birth. While that is a step in the right direction, we need legislation on the federal level that mandates this training is done in all medical schools, as well as re-certifications of this training periodically. Hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics need to be made to adopt a more uniform standardized code of operations that greatly reduces the chance for implicit biases to play a role in triaging, treatment, and outcomes for African American patients.
Unless our criminal justice system experiences wide reform, schools serving low income populations become learner based and we have necessary diversity training of medical personnel we can’t even begin to bring about any lasting tangible change.
We need to reduce funds used to militarize police and reallocate those funds to hiring civilian oversight committees, medical staff and social workers to work as a part of the police force. Reallocate some of those funds to creating and implementing a tracking system to include the demographics of the sentences imposed by judges and how they affect African Americans as opposed to their white counterparts. Dissolve the relationship between the government, that’s supposed to be for the people, and private prisons.
Mandate that public schools who serve low income populations adopt a learner centered model and abandon the current expensive subject centered model that is failing our children. Take the burden off of our teachers and students to be judged according to standardized tests when our schools can’t afford the proper resources to prepare students for them. We want our children taught for retention, not testing.
Mandate mandatory periodic evidence based implicit bias training for medical personnel. We need not be marginalized, whether intentionally or unintentionally, when seeking medical. This has consistently lead to higher rates of preventable deaths of African Americans.
Unless and until these things are done, which is the bare minimum and far from unreasonable, the United States will continue to be a land of oppression for a large portion of its population.