I can’t understand how a police officer can choke a man to death, a strategy that is banned by the police force, but the Grand Jury refused to send the case to trial. What worries me is that these are the public cases that make the media. How many poor bodies have police slaughtered that we have not seen? How many more have prosecutors ignored to keep the professional peace with the corrupt police culture?
I am beginning to fear for my body. I know the police see it. Policemen can call it. Policewomen scream at it like it is a dog. I must surrender to their screams. I keep a smile on my face—not too wide—just enough. Still, depending on their mood, they can fist my body wherever they please. No consequence, of course. Their word is the word of courts’ laws. They use their boots and stomp me to the ground. They choke me in front of an audience. The police shoot me in front of cameras. Kill me. My dead bodies go global-viral. American presidents will watch. Supreme Court judges watch. Congress still watches. But the police fear not; because they are the police; because they know certain bodies must know their place.
Failing to remember my place is daring death. How difficult it is to know that forgetfulness can put me in a position where I unintentionally dare death! My body is a burden? Burden walking and talking daily, saying that it is “living,” saying it has dreams, saying it wants to have a career, saying it wants to make family, friends, and nation proud? For how burdensome it is—to walk and to know I must always remember my place—my body—in a country place that tells me to forget my body and remember I am human. How could there not be an undesired burden to carry alongside ambitions and dreams, knowing that any police in America can scream at me, choke me, and shoot me dead as Americans record their violence with cameras?
Do I like police officers after witnessing their violence upon bodies that carry genealogies like mine? How can I admire their badge anymore, or their uniforms or their courteous smiles that can flip to violence in seconds? How can I not wonder—which body will be violated or die today?—when I see their speeding cars, hear their sirens, or see their hard faces on the streets and in subway cars?
“Well, not all police are like the bad ones,” people correctly remind us even as they remember the police culture: corruption and violence. Every good police officer should realize that when people see them, people remember a state of corruption, fear, and powerlessness; fewer people see their dedication.