A letter to my generation

Shannon A. Garrido

Dear zennials, I just watched a video of a white cop, who in distress, shares a riveting story on how she feared for her life while ordering at a Mcdonald’s drive-thru. She couldn’t tell whether her food had been poisoned, and within the current social climate, she didn’t want to risk it. This video made me realize that her fear and the discomfort that some cops may be facing in recent weeks is just about a fraction of what black Americans face on a daily basis. I mean this woman was outraged because the uniform she wears made her fear for her life, but let me ask you this when you take it off is the fear still there? Do your “blue lives matter” once that uniform comes off?

It is no secret that in a nation where 13% of the population accounts for 40% of police murders there are discrepancies, to say the least. When the color of your skin dictates your life sentence in the hands of a cop, there is an issue to be addressed. A person of color can’t remove the skin they’re born with so they are forced to walk a thin line of life over a traitorous pit. So when did it become the norm to compare one life with the other? When did “blue lives” equate to “black lives”? When did we make this a comparable figure? Why does a job hold the same standard as a human life?  

“Blue lives” is an obsolete argument in rebuttal to the “black lives matter” movement. Besides the fact that black lives fit into the realm of cops or other professions, “blue lives” don’t actually exist. You see a black cop takes the risk he signed and trained for when he became one, but once that uniform comes off and that man is now living in America as a black person, he is subject to the same discrimination as other African Americans. It doesn’t matter that he is a cop because if he is caught walking in his neighborhood after dark by a deputy who decides that he looks like a threat, he can become another name on your timeline. You can’t take that off. 

But don’t be mistaken “Blue lives”, similar to “All lives matter”, wasn’t born out of advocating and respecting police officers or other people’s lives at risk. It was born to mitigate the injustices people of color experience, it’s a bumper that allows people to continue to ignore, downplay, or disagree with people who protest inequality. Although those on the “other side” might convince themselves that “black lives matter” is made to degrade other races, it is simply a slogan to advocate for a marginalized group of people. If that feels like oppression to you, ask yourself if your rights are being taken away from you or those same rights are being given to everyone else. 

In the midst of my wondering, I came across another conclusion; Human beings have created a world so disheartening and so unjust that when a white cop shows an ounce of humanity she is recommended. She becomes a victim of a “few bad apples”. When a cop makes a standard arrest instead of shooting an unarmed black man in the back, he’s a hero. When did the bar drop so low? When did we as people allow for common sense and human decency to dictate whether you deserve praise or not? Shouldn’t it be the norm? 

A police officer is supposed to defend and protect human lives, and when there is a nation screaming in your face that that uniform doesn’t make them feel safe, ask yourself why. Instead, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea goes on national TV claiming that his badge is not stained. But it is, it’s been stained for years. It’s part of their job to be in situations of high risk and danger. It wasn’t part of George Floyd, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, or Breonna Taylor’s job, yet they faced the biggest penalty. So when a police officer treats a black man with respect, he isn’t a hero, he is doing his job. When a police officer fears for her life at a Mcdonalds, her fears don’t equate to those, who due to the color of their skin, walk into a Cup Foods to buy cigarettes and get publicly lynched. When the head commissioner of the NYPD cries that he himself is not a murderer, why does it make it okay for so many who are to still work for him? How did the bar get so low? 

It isn’t just that we celebrate when people do their job properly or cry when a police officer shows an ounce of emotion, but when a little justice is served so many are quick to take off their spurs and pat themselves on the back. Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free, yet when one is fired we claim victory. These men killed an innocent young woman in her own apartment and received no sentence. That is not a victory. So I ask again, when did the bar get so low? 

When did we start justifying killer cops as “a few bad apples”? Are we going to do this in every field? Should there be bad apples in hospitals and airplanes? No there shouldn’t. When a job description gives people the right to hold and fire lethal weapons in order to “serve and protect” there should be no bad apples. Especially when these bad apples tend to target one specific group and have for centuries. 

I could go ahead and spit out stats on years of systemic racism that created a nation that keeps African Americans slaves to poverty, lower life expectancy, police brutality and so much more. But this is a letter to my generation, whom I can confidently say has had enough. The bar is no longer low, it is high up where our equal rights should lie. This means that I shouldn’t get praise for calling out a racist, and a police officer shouldn’t be applauded for reporting on his bigoted partners. This also means other things like men are not glorified for asking for consent, and politicians are not idolized for handing minorities basic freedoms. This means celebrities aren’t “woke” because they use their platforms to speak up, and white people aren’t allies for not saying the N-word. 

We do not accept racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, or any form of bigotry to be a “difference of opinion”. We cannot accept those who hold another human being’s existence to such low standards, to retain positions of power. To make decisions for the general public. If you are not racist, congratulations you have accomplished nothing. Being not racist cannot be the norm, we must be anti-racist. We must be furious that we let this become the model sample of what a decent human being is. We can no longer live in a world where buildings matter more to some than human beings. We can no longer live in a world where slavery was “too long ago” to remember but 9/11 is “never forget”. We must set the bar up high. 

We cannot continue to treat human rights as a debate. We cannot continue to put basic human decency in a back burner. This is a letter to my generation, we change the things we can’t accept, that’s the new norm. 

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