I have a confession to make.
The title may have given it away.
I jaywalk. In fact, I jaywalk quite frequently. Multiple times a week. Authorities, if you’re seeing this, I’m sorry. I just have places to go and people to see and, traffic lights… well, #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat.
When I jaywalk, it goes something like this:
-Question whether I should do it or not
-Look both ways
-Mentally calculate likelihood of getting hit by a car
-Quickly glance around for police or other authority figures (optional; I realistically only do this roughly 30% of the time)
Things I do not think of:
-What if a cop sees me?
-What if this happens to me?
At 0:16, the officer strikes the boy in the face with his baton twice.
At 1:11, more officers arrive. They grab the boy and throw him to the ground.
At 2:07, they turn the boy around and you see his sobbing face.
The video ends.
Here’s the thing: I’m a white, middle-class, 20 year old woman living in Ottawa, Ontario. Being in Canada’s capital city, I see cops around a lot.
And I understand that as much as I can educate myself and stay informed about racism, discrimination, civil rights issues, police brutality, and all other issues, I am in a place of significant privilege and will never, never, EVER be able to comprehend many of these matters in the same way that individuals and groups of other races, cultures, classes, and countless other walks of life are forced to.
As much as I consider myself to be pretty well-rounded and aware, this video slapped me in the face a bit and woke me up to a few things.
I don’t worry about police officers seeing me jaywalk and stopping me. In fact, I have jaywalked in the line of sight of police officers dozens upon dozens of times. Sometimes we make eye contact. Sometimes I look apologetic— most times, I do not.
I don’t have to consciously configure the odds and the risk associated with potentially being stopped by a police officer.
When I’m near a police officer, I don’t have to stand up any straighter. I don’t have to watch my mouth. I don’t have to “not look like a thug.” I don’t have to remember the conversations with my parents that so many people in my life grew up having.
“Remember to be respectful, even when they’re not.”
“Always say ‘Yes, sir’ or ‘Yes, ma’am.'”
“Don’t talk back. Don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t ask for help.”
“If he hits you, don’t hit back.”
“. . .Just come home safe.”
It goes on and on. If you’re coloured and grew up in North America, perhaps you’ve had a similar talk with your parents at some point in your life, or maybe on more than one occasion.
If that was me crossing that Stockton street on Wednesday, I would have followed my routine. I would have looked both ways. I would have crossed the street.
Would I have been stopped by a police officer? Would nine officers have been called to the scene? Would I have been beaten in the face with a baton, and forced to the ground?
I don’t know. I can’t determine the outcome of that scenario. I also can’t say whether this case was racially motivated or not. But what I can say with full confidence is that this was a case of abuse of power. Over and over again, we helplessly watch police officers across the continent use their job titles as an excuse to assert themselves over whomever they please. These are unjust acts of violence being labelled as “protecting and serving” us.
Watch the video for yourself. Establish your own opinion. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and let me know your thoughts on it. I’d love to hear what you think.
You can mention or DM me, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to chat.
Be safe. Be informed.
Stay hopeful. Stay woke.