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My Children Can't Breathe

This is a picture of my family, taken for my daughter's high school graduation on Friday. She was CIF-SS Champion in Shot Put for Division 4 in 2019, by the way, and had big plans on repeating this year before the Stay-At-Home Orders. My three oldest are adopted from Haiti, my two youngest are biological, and my two foster children (sorry you can't see how cute they are) are from right here in LA County. I have no doubt that four of the people in this picture, myself included, will never have reason to fear police brutality. I've been pulled over because of excessive window tint, burned out tail lights, etc. Never once did I wonder whether or not I would walk away from the encounter. I wasn't even asked to produce my registration or proof of insurance in most cases, that's how sure the officers were that nothing was wrong with me. Sure, I felt anxiety, stemming from a proper respect of the law and the fact that I was found to be in violation of it. However, I did not fear for my life. I knew that if I exercised proper respect, I would be fine, regardless of what I had done to merit being pulled over. That is the reality for four individuals in this picture.

Five individuals in this picture will be fine in most encounters with police. They will exercise a healthy respect for law enforcement, and therefore will have no reason to fear the great majority of police officers out there. However, based solely on who their birth parents are, and the color of skin they inherited, their reality is a little different than mine. These are my babies, mind you. I'm the one who changed their diapers, gave them hugs and kisses, went through the triumphs and defeats with them, and formed them in many ways into the people they are today. Yet, even if they do everything exactly the way I would in an encounter with the police, there is a chance that they may not walk away from the situation if they run into the wrong officer.

Their reality is not my reality. I would never be pulled over for rolling my car window down and resting my arm in such a way that it could be considered outside of the car, and yet my son was pulled over for that supposedly illegal activity. Funny enough, I've seen four different officers, of various races and different sexes engaging in this same activity since. I would never be stopped and questioned by police for walking and talking on the phone in a neighborhood in which I did not live, but my son was. I have run through all kinds of neighborhoods, even ones that are considered unsafe, and no one ever suspected that I was a thief and decided to chase me down and shoot at me. My son has to wonder whether or not he can run through safe neighborhoods. If he someday runs into the wrong cop, I fear for his life, as I do with all of the members of my family who were not privileged enough to have spent the first nine months of their lives in my wife's womb.

My son is not dead at this point, because although the cops involved had a level of implicit bias that caused them to suspect him of wrongdoing based on the color of his skin, they were not racist to the point that they would try to hurt him because of his color. I fear for five of my children, however, that one day they might run into the cop that would take great delight in inflicting pain on them or even ending their lives simply because they are the wrong race. Those cops are definitely in the minority, although I suspect there are still some backwater areas in the South where they are more prevalent. The point is, those cops are out there, as we are seemingly continually being reminded of these days. The prospect that one of them might take the life of one of my children some day for no good reason is not a happy prospect.

We are not as color blind as many would like to think, and if you are a white person trying to write off the George Floyd situation, posting about how this has nothing to do with race, and more focused on the senseless actions of looters than the terrible acts that are repeatedly being committed against people of color simply because they are people of color, you are part of the problem. I support law enforcement. I mourn for people whose very livelihoods are being destroyed right now in these violent protests and in no way approve of those actions. However, I will not ignore the frustrations of about 40 million people of color in our country who have to wonder whether or not they will walk away from an encounter with the police, who may be gunned down simply for going out for a jog, and who are told again and again to shut up and get back into line whenever they want to peacefully protest these atrocities.

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