Obeying orders doesn’t always save Black lives

To the editor:

Michael Spahr’s letter of April 22 contained many statements that could be addressed, but I was especially struck by this one: “I do not believe in systemic racism. I believe if people would obey police orders they would all still be alive.”

Here is a non-exhaustive list of people of color killed by police officers and the circumstances under which they were killed.

Breona Taylor: asleep in her home when police arrived to execute a search warrant. In the subsequent incident, the unarmed woman was shot eight times.

Alatiana Jefferson: an officer shot and killed her through the window of her home; they were responding to a call from a neighbor that her door had been left open.

Stephon Clark: officers said they believed he was holding a gun when they shot him 20 times. He was holding a mobile phone.

Philandro Castile: he was shot by a police officer seconds after Castile told the officer that he had a legal firearm. Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car, along with her 4-year-old daughter, captured the incident of Facebook Live.

Freddie Gray: he had been arrested and handcuffed and put in the back of a police van. He was found dead 45 minutes later; with hands and feet shackled, he had no way to protect himself as he was tossed around in the van.

12-year-old Tamir Rice: playing with a toy gun in a park. Within two seconds of arriving at the park, the officer had fatally shot Rice. It took the officers four minutes to give first aid to Rice.

Tanisha Anderson: her family called to say that Anderson, who was bipolar, was restless and trying to leave the house. The officers convinced her to return to her mental health facility; in walking her to the squad car she either fell or was “slammed” to the ground. She was handcuffed on the ground for 21 minutes before paramedics arrived. She was dead on arrival at the hospital.

Caron Nazario: officers stopped the Black Army lieutenant on a traffic stop; Nazario spoke calmly to the officer, who is shown on camera pointing a gun at Nazario and telling him to get out of the car. Nazario was subsequently pepper sprayed by the officer.

Phillip Colbert: pulled over because of an air freshener hanging from his rear-view window. He was subsequently asked eight times if he had smoked pot or had cocaine or heroin in his car.

Dwight Gordon: also pulled over because of two air-fresheners that were “blocking his view.”

Daunte Wright: also pulled over for air fresheners and an expired tag. When Wright stepped back into his car after exiting, an officer shot him, thinking that she was holding a Taser.

This list does not include the incidents of citizens who are not police officers assaulting or killing people of color. Of particular interest are the recent assaults on Asian-Americans.

To make my viewpoint clear, I support police officers and have great respect for the work they do. I do not support police officers who commit murder.

I have found myself to be guilty of inbred racism; I submit that, if we are honest, most of those of us who are Caucasian would say the same. It is past time for us as a nation to confront inbred and systemic racism.

Joan D. Loewen



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