I’m sure you’ve seen the latest incidence of unnecessary police brutality – a black healthcare professional named Charles Kinsey who was shot while on the ground with his hands up as he desperately tried to calm his autistic patient. I hope you’re outraged and appalled. And I hope you’re tired of the violence. I am.
I’m not black, but I am a brown mother of brown boys who will grow up to be brown men, and I need you to hear me when I say that I fear for their lives, not because I expect them to do something wrong that will lead to a confrontation with the police, but because I fear that you – you being someone in the general public – will perceive them as a threat where no threat exists, and will call 911 for absolutely no damn reason. If you are reading this and are thinking to yourself, “Of course I would call 911 if there was cause for alarm!” then I am talking to you. Please don’t. At least not until you truly assess the situation.
On behalf of myself and my boys and those whose lives hang in the balance, I implore you to consider the very real consequences of calling 911 when you’re not actually sure that a situation is violent or dangerous. Think for a minute about how you will feel when you realize that your call started a chain of events that caused the death of a 12 year old little boy with a toy gun. Imagine your horror when you realize that there is a child sobbing on tv, heartbroken because his dad will never come home again, and the cops that shot his dad arrived because of your call. Realize that a man like Charles Kinsey – a hardworking, professional, compassionate man who cares for the disabled – is sitting in the hospital right now with a bullet wound because someone perceived a threat where none existed and called 911 unnecessarily.
I’m not saying there’s never an appropriate time to call 911. But, seeing a black man in the street is not that time. Seeing a black child with a toy gun is not that time. Seeing a black man selling cigarettes or dvds is not the time. Be wise. Understand the potential ramifications of your actions. Your ability to see brown and black bodies as human beings before you see them as threats could save an innocent life.