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Police, Black Community Desperately Need Dialogue

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I am numb with grief yet filled with painful anxiety. The grand jury in New York heard all of the testimony, examined all of the evidence and decided not to bring an indictment in the Eric Garner case.

Eric Garner was 43 years old and was arrested for selling cigarettes illegally. He was placed in a chokehold by New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo and never recovered. He died literally on the streets of New York despite saying several times, “I can’t breathe.”

He was a Black man and a father of six children. The Police Officer is White. A similar racial refrain was played out in Ferguson, Missouri, most recently.

Garner did not have a gun but was known to police in New York because of criminal mischief. Yes, a criminal past but did he deserve to die because he was selling contraband cigarettes? The answer to that question is a resounding, “No!”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that there would be a federal investigation. Benjamin Crump, a Civil Rights attorney, says grand jury rules and regulations should be reviewed and possibly changed. The African American community is protesting across the country with the mantra, “Black Lives Matter.”

What is disheartening and extremely aggravating about these latest killings is the mistrust of the police by African Americans. This mistrust did not start in Ferguson nor will it end in New York.

In recent memory, we simply have to recall Rodney King being beaten unmercifully by the officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

After watching the video, I came to the conclusion that these policemen were guilty and would lose their jobs. Well, it didn’t turn out that way. The policemen involved were found not guilty and didn’t lose their jobs. Afterward, King in a question heard around America asked, “Can’t we all just get along?”

The Garner incident happened in July and it was captured on video. Yes, Garner was a big man whom you heard say, “Don’t touch me” more than one time. Could that statement have been intimidating to the officers surrounding him? Couldn’t they have used mace? Couldn’t they have wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him?

Instead, they placed him in a chokehold that was banned by the police department and ignored him saying that he couldn’t breathe. He dies at the scene and we the people take a step backward in our quest to make this country better.

What has become abundantly clear is there must be some immediate and dynamic dialogue between the Black community and the police. Because incidents like these haven’t happened where you live doesn’t mean the conversations shouldn’t take place. That is even more of a reason that they should. Until this dialogue happens, this nation will continue to hemorrhage socially.

I grew up respecting and fearing the police. I still respect them but I also still fear them.

Community groups and places of worship must make a dedicated and renewed effort to engage our Black boys before it is too late.

If you are young, Black and male you are at risk every single day. If you think otherwise you are naïve. What is happening on these streets can cost you your life with one wrong move.

Funerals for Black boys and men are mounting up. We know the causes all too well.

What we need now are solutions.

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