Last week I was honored by the NY City Council LGBT Caucus as a part of their World AIDS Day Remembrance Ceremony. That same day the announcement that the Grand Jury would not indict the officers in the Eric Garner case was released. I drove down to City Hall numb and then sat there numb. I had chill bumps on my arms as I sat and thought ‘Here we go again.’ We were witnessing yet another African American man killed by the hands of a police officer, who despite video clearly showing what happened, would not stand trial for what the medical examiner classified a homicide. Morgan Freeman said it best via Twitter “I guess a video of a cop choking a man to death isn't enough evidence to prove a cop choked a man to death.”
But yet, now we want cops to wear body cameras. Don’t get me wrong I agree that is a great idea, given that it will likely lessen police brutality, unnecessary and unwarranted stops and will serve as evidence when the police are in the right. But will it ever serve as evidence that an African American man has rights, that when he yells “I can’t breathe,” an officer should stop continuing to press his face into cement and allow him his fundamental human right to live? Sounds simple enough to me.
We hear of the police shooting an unarmed man in the stairway of a housing complex and even before an investigation we hear “it was an accident.” Why are police officers patrolling our neighborhoods with gun in hand when there is no imminent danger? If police officers are that afraid to be in our neighborhoods, maybe we should reconsider who is being assigned to communities of color. Maybe we should ensure we are putting officers with more extensive training and cultural competency in communities of color if indeed these are ‘areas with higher rates of crime.’
I am bothered by the fact that it appears the police are now trained to shoot first. This week, we have a case of a person with mental health issues shot by the police and hearing that they (the police) ‘did the right thing’ in this case. Whatever happened to police shooting people in the legs to incapacitate instead of shooting to kill with the first shot fired? Why can’t our police officers be armed with tasers as well as guns? Tasers in these recent cases could have avoided the needless killings of many of the men in these cases; children would still have their fathers, mothers would still have their sons, wives would still have their husbands.
We have to address the injustices that continue to happen in our communities, the injustices we impose on ourselves by the ongoing black on black violence that happens every day and the injustices that happen to us by those who find us frightening and dangerous.
I am currently sitting on a task force formed by Governor Cuomo to End AIDS. It is a real honor; however, I realize daily that we cannot end AIDS until we can end the constant injustices that occur in communities of color including poverty, lack of employment, unstable housing, high recidivism rates, substance use and unaddressed mental illness. Until we address the structural and societal factors that put us at greater risk for everything from diabetes to HIV to death by police we will never be able to see an end to AIDS. #BlackLivesMatter #Icantbreathe #EndAIDS2020