The reason is simple.
I’ll use a personal story to set this up.
January 20th, 2006. Yes, I remember the date. Western Christian School. Hanford, California.
It was the second half of seventh grade. It was a chilly winter day, laden with mist, fog, and blustery winds that encourage you to tighten your hoodie. It was lunch recess. The throng of middle-school students was up to their usual tomfoolery and shenanigans: basketball, tag, acting cool near the bleachers, four square, and other activities that distracted us from tormenting our teachers.
On this particular day, I was meandering near the wooden playground fort. A handful of mischievous boys thought it would be a great idea to pick oranges from the line of church-owned orange trees and throw them at the fort. Within minutes, the wooden steps and posts were drenched in juice. The walls were sticky with fluorescent pulp and bits of peel. The boys, enamored by their prank, began hurling the mangled fruit at each other. I don’t recall feeling uncomfortable, nor was I thrilled. It was a peculiar neutrality, a plateau of passive complicity, not condoning their prank but also not intervening on behalf of morality.
I knew it was wrong, but I wasn’t about to be the uptight Christian boy who ruined the fun.
Whether the recess teacher’s aide wanted to wait until we walked back to class or she didn’t notice the vandalism until recess was over, I don’t know. Either way, by the time the afternoon bell rang, the boys were singled out for punishment. As I wandered back to my teacher Mrs. Jessup’s classroom, the students all were excused. Except for the pranksters. And me.
The teacher’s aide revealed to Mrs. Jessup that she spotted me lingering within the fort’s vicinity. She knew I knew something was up, but I didn’t notify her or try to stop them. From Mrs. Jessup’s perspective, I was just as guilty as they were. I had the opportunity to speak up, say something, do what I could to prevent the prank from escalating, but I didn’t. As a result, I had to clean up the mauled bits of oranges cluttering the fort. I’ll never forget fighting back my tears as I blindly shoveled those peels into my plastic bag. I’ll never forget the offhanded remarks from some of the boys, objecting to my punishment, that I didn’t do it so I didn’t deserve to be out there.
And I’ll never forget wanting to believe that, knowing in my heart I did deserve to be punished.
Watching rowdy middle-school students throwing oranges at a playground fort is a far cry from watching a fellow officer murder a man suspected of forgery. And yet, that’s why the reluctance to convict all four officers infuriates me so.
I learned, at the age of thirteen, how doing nothing, distancing yourself from wrongdoing, can be as incriminating as the actual deed. I learned, from that experience, to always speak up when you witness a crime, even if you’re ridiculed as a whistle blower. Or in my case, a tattletale. And when you refuse to address such injustice, when you willfully turn the other way, you may as well have been alongside the criminal.
This is directed to you, President Trump, Chief Medaria Arradondo, Governor Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey, District Attorney Mike Freeman, to anyone split on this matter.
Take a step back. Take a long look at what has unfolded up to this point. By dragging your feet on Derek Chauvin’s conviction, dragging your feet on Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng, and Tou Thao’s convictions, you’re condoning unjust, racial violence against a black man, who even in his detainment should have had full access to his rights, with no recompense. This is one of the many stokes to the fire of the Black Lives Matter movement, to the protests spreading throughout our nation: the notion that for centuries, lifetimes, and generations, white deputies, sheriffs and police officers have committed egregious hate crimes against the marginalized, especially the black community, with no consequences whatsoever. Furthermore, the sheer omnipotence bestowed on the force perpetuates the horrific self-righteousness of their actions. I never envisioned a universe where the public scrambles for justification to a murder at the hands of corrupt police officers.
And that statement right there implies what universe I’ve been living in. Even I, a queer Mexican, have reserved the delusion that progress has been made, that because of said “progress” I didn’t have to worry too much about the plight of the POC community. And here I am, at square one, feeling foolish and naive.
The black community has dealt with this inhumane phenomena for God-knows-how-long. They’re battling against the powers-that-be, a systematically racist institution that is concerned with protecting and serving only itself. They’re not angry at you mainly because you’re white or rich or conservative or liberal or obsessed with campaign endorsements. They’re angry because they’re still discriminated for the basis of their skin color and you’re tweeting a trendy hashtag or inspirational lip service and calling it a day. By refusing to indict all four officers, you’re telling them you don’t care enough to admit the system needs reform, that they’re making too much noise, that they need to shut up and sit back down before you shoot them dead.
Everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions. EVERYONE.
Stop providing a safe space for blue-uniformed criminals. Just admit it. The officers fucked up. Everyone does. Even the best of us. Don’t cover their asses just because they’re police officers. Every action has a consequence, and just as the looters need to own up to the violence they perform and enable, you need to own up to the police force’s shortcomings. Admit Officers Chauvin, Kueng, Lane, and Tao are NOT, nor were they ever, fit to be policemen. It’s time to throw down your weapons and riot gear. No force, coalition, affiliation, terrorist group, militia, individual, what-have-you, should be exempt from receiving their due punishment, be you perpetrator or enabler. The one who commits the crime, or the one who knows what’s happening but chooses to ignore it.
And as you survey this beaten, pock-marked, ragged, weary wasteland you call the United States of America, guns raised at the peaceful protestors, if you do choose to shoot us dead, you better hope you have enough ammunition to take out all of us.