Trying to Understand

I just watched a video of Kajieme Powell being shot by police in St. Louis, Missouri, and I’m shocked. I don’t know what I was expecting when I clicked ‘play’ on the video. But what I saw made my stomach drop and my eyes burn. This wasn’t the usual witness account with a shaky camera angle that is questionable in credibility at best. It wasn’t particularly blurry and it didn’t cut to the ground when something happened.

In the video I saw a man who had made some bad choices. I saw a man who was visibly frustrated and angry with the police. He approached the police and continually told them to “shoot me, just shoot me,” as he walked towards them with a knife, Do I think he chose the best way to make his voice heard? Not exactly. Do I think he needed to be calmed down or detained in some way? Yes, probably. But even though I read the headline and I knew what was going to happen, I still jumped and turned my head when 15 seconds after the officers arrived they shot their guns and Powell fell to the ground. 

With everything going on in Missouri and New York right now with questions of brutality and accountability of police officers, there have been plenty of voices chiming in online and elsewhere. I haven’t spoken up about any of this yet, at least until now. It would be easy to take one side or the other. But the fact is that it’s not that simple. I wish it was. But there are so many facts that are twisted and made up and so many things left out, so how are we supposed to know what’s right?

In the case of Michael Brown there are several eyewitness accounts that move us to believe one side of a story. Then there are the police statements that move us to believe another. Right now I’ve taken the position that I wasn’t there so I can’t say what happened, but I can say one thing: any time any life is lost we should be grieving. Whether Michael Brown did something wrong or not, he shouldn’t have died. Whether Kajieme Powell was wrong or not he should not have been gunned down in the street. I realize that I’m not a police officer and my life has never been put in danger in that type of capacity, but there is something deep inside me that wants so badly to believe that when a gun is fired by an officer that it should be completely warranted and never to kill. 

Maybe I’m too naive. I know I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that people have died at the hands of those that are supposed to keep us safe. I’m not saying that every single police officer is corrupted. I know that bad judgment calls happen, we are human. But that doesn’t make the death of anyone okay. So I guess what I’m trying to say, in my own confused, frustrated, and heartbroken way, is this: instead of worrying about picking sides and arguing about who was right or who was wrong, let’s try listening to each other. Let’s try recognizing that, Innocent or guilty, human lives have been lost and each case is a tragedy. Let’s try loving each other. Maybe then we can start to make things a little bit better. 

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