Again, police officers have again hurt, killed and humiliated black people and people of color, by use of a chokehold. All of us, even our children saw this live on our TV's. How can this be? Our children must be asking. All we can say in this moment and time is that this; apparently this is what they have been paid to do.
Why the chokehold? Author Paul Butler, of the acclaimed Chokehold: Policing Black Men, writes on how the system treats African Americans with contempt: "If police patrolled white areas as they do poor black neighborhoods, there would be a revolution." Hillary Clinton once asked a room full of white people to imagine how they would feel if police and judges treated them the way African Americans are treated? This is called empathy…which means "the ability to understand and share the feelings of others; connecting with another person's pain and trying to understand how that person might be feeling." A great question which needs to be asked over and over again; we can no longer be silent about the injustice to black people in this country; to continue to be silent is to be complicit.
These continued incidents of racism are understandable based on the frustration with the police in black communities all over this country, many feel voiceless and helpless. Regarding the protestors, according to basketball coach in Minneapolis Peter Olefaso, "they are not thugs (as described by the president)…95% of them were there for the right reason and 5% were looters who took advantage of the situation."
With Officer Derek Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck: This was a form of chokehold. What is a chokehold? It is a maneuver in which a person's neck is gripped in a way that restrains breathing. A person left in a chokehold for more than a few seconds can die…. yet we know that the officer had his knee on Floyd's neck in a modified chokehold for nine minutes…this was so crass, so cruel. The truth is any human being will suffer distress when pressure is put on the carotid arteries. The former chief of Los Angeles police department Daryl Gates once suggested that "there is something about the anatomy of African Americans that makes them especially susceptible to serious injury from chokeholds, because their arteries do not open as fast as arteries do on "normal people." How racist can that statement be?
While many police departments in the US have banned chokeholds, this does not stop some officers from using them when they perceive a threat. How could Floyd have been a threat lying face down with handcuffs with a knee was on his neck for nine minutes?
US Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, has said the now-fired police officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck "enjoyed doing what he was doing."
Where do we go from here? We have got to deal with the fact that we are here in America with a justice system that does not work for everybody. We have got to come together to talk about what we are going to do, how we are going to do it and as African Americans how are we going to protect ourselves?
As Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, writes: "We will not heal as nation though silence–but through justice, though progress, through ACTIVISM and ACTION."
In closing, all America must claim and know that "so long as Black men and women cannot breathe, we cannot rest," says Perez.
We totally agree…the time is NOW. These attacks and egregious actions have been made to invoke fear and disunity. As Tim Keller, mayor of Albuquerque says: "We must stand up against divisive rhetoric." We know this work does start with each one of us. We must stand together to have a peaceful, just and equitable world.
Lorraine Price, vice president of the Santa Fe School Board
The Rev. Dr. Wanda Ross Padilla, holistic life coach and former president of the Santa Fe Branch of the NAACP