"Stop Killing Us" 3 Things to Do With Your Grief and Rage

Posted on Posted in #BlackLivesMatter, Activists, Allies, Artists, Field Notes, Parents, Prisoners, Scholars, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized

Like you, I’m exhausted by repeatedly observing the bar for police conduct get lower and lower. I am aggrieved by my ever increasing fear that my partner, cousin, uncle, grandmother, friend, student, or colleague could be next. I could be next. God forbid the wrong police officer encounter me anywhere doing absolutely nothing illegal. My PhD won’t save me. My femininity won’t save me. The Constitution won’t save me.

But I have found solace. Locally, people committed to racial justice are not only peacefully taking to the streets to demand immediate action, they are organizing healing circles, “Black Love” dinners, and other gatherings to bond, grieve, and heal. Black Twitter gave us #goodnews and #carefreeBlackkids2K16 to remind us there is joy and affirmation in Blackness. These actions show we embrace our right to be fully human, which includes experiencing fear, sadness, vulnerability and hope. As a community, we are finally accepting that we cannot behave our way out of police brutality. Police brutality has no logic but racist logic. Whether you’re a Black future POTUS, school cafeteria worker, or high school student, we are all in this together.

Our voices and concern are making an impact – albeit slowly. A consensus is emerging in our country that profound changes in the training, arming, and conduct of police are immediately needed. Since Nixon led the charge for “law and order” over forty years ago, there has not been such a widespread rejection of escalating policing and imprisonment. At Progressive Pupil we say #OrganizingWorks. In this case, organizing is working.

The simple concrete actions recommended by Black Lives Matter activists are also a comfort to me. Here are three constructive things you can do with your grief and rage.
1. De-Militarize the Police – Millions of dollars worth riot gear, automatic weapons and other military grade equipment were provided to local police forces by the Justice Department with congressional funding. Contact your local congress person’s office and ask: 

  • “What oversight are you providing for the use of these funds?” 
  • “What efforts are you making to decrease federal funding to militarize the police and increase funding for education, non-violent jobs, and other programs that are actually proven to increase public safety?” 

2. Demand Proper Training and Accountability – Activists and scholars are pointing out that some of the police violence we’ve witnessed is precisely how officers are trained to interact with community members. Contact your local chief of police’s office and ask:

  • “How are police officers trained to de-escalate confrontations (or perceived confrontations) during their encounters with Black and Latino community members in order to avoid violence?” 
  • “What efforts are made to remove police officers who have histories of extralegal violence or racial discrimination?” 
  • “How much in taxpayer dollars has the city had to pay in civil settlements due to police misconduct last year? What efforts are being made to reduce that number?” 

3. Show Your Support – The above actions aim to fulfill short term goals that will save lives. The overall Black Lives Matter movement also has longer term goals for completely restructuring the criminal justice system. Their vision for a society which aims to prevent violence and crime by investing in communities-rather than perpetuate violence and crime by punishing them-is supported by renowned scholars including Michelle Alexander and Dr. Angela Y. Davis. You can show your support by: 

  • Texting HANDSUP to 90975 to receive local updates about events and how you can help
  • Checking out their official website BlackLivesMatter.com and learning about their principles
  • Making a Donation and/or a Purchase if you are able at the website

If you are still fired up, please share these three steps with your friends and loved ones who are also aggrieved and concerned. 

Yours in Solidarity,


Robin J. Hayes, PhD

Executive Director, Progressive Pupil

Director/Writer/Producer Black and Cuba

Producer 9 GRAMS

P.S. If you’re in New York this Saturday July 16, I’d love to see you at the staged reading of a play I’m producing called 9 GRAMS. It follows a Hollywood screenwriter who is racially profiled and forced to endure solitary confinement in a Turkish prison. More information is available at thetanknyc.org. 

7 thoughts on “"Stop Killing Us" 3 Things to Do With Your Grief and Rage

  1. This post resonates with me because I am appalled by police brutality. The issues of police brutality is highlighted through the policies that society has created to interact with Black and Latino communities. In most cases, the police escalate the situation and use extreme deadly force as a means to solve the situation. Black and Latino communities are seen as the “other” and the police is dominant. Collective action and social movements are excellent responses to police brutality. These movements illustrate the contrast between being aggressive and being peaceful. In order to combat police brutality, police forces need to be retrained and updated on the issues that is currently taking place in minority neighborhoods. When the police force is educated about how to diffuse situations and held accountable for their actions, police officers would think before immediately reacting with deadly force. Thus, creating peaceful police relations in communities.

  2. I really appreciate the advice and suggestions for how to make a difference in this post. Particularly with suggestion #2, since the source of a lot of these hostilities is with the police department. I think there has to be an emphasis on de-escalation tactics for the police. I am a teacher by profession, and I worked in a high school that served one of the poorest, most marginalized communities in all of New York City. The first tactic that teachers were taught with students was de-escalation–if a student is hurt or angry, the teacher is not supposed to escalate the fight. You give the student a few minutes to vent, and then hopefully they can come back to the classroom. Police need to learn the importance of de-escalation tactics, and that not every situation has to result in a black man or teenager being shot. They need some advanced training, and they need to reduce the amount of force that is being used in black communities. Too many young men are being shot and killed for absolutely nothing. It is disgraceful on the part of the NYPD.

  3. A very powerful image for sure. However, I do find something wrong with this picture and it is not what you would expect. They essentially made the police here the villain when they were trying to peacefully remove her. She didn’t comply. Of course she would get arrested. What I found a bit offensive about this picture is the idea that some people are associating police with someone to be feared. That’s just not true. Not all police have racist and hateful tendencies. I think what I found just a tad bit annoying was the woman talking about she’s the “vessel for peace…” It felt disingenuous –either that or she’s very much high in the clouds. Many people found it to be equivalent to the man standing in front of the tanks. It’s not the same thing. At least I don’t see it as the same thing. For me, it really felt fake.

  4. This article was well written and highlights key points on Police brutality pertaining to the black community . To add on to the list of things that can be done to help with the grief and rage , there should be a ban on racist policing , But at the very least, cities, counties and states should provide avenues through which private citizens can take the police to court when they believe they’ve been profiled . Involving the community in making big decisions , every city should have an adequately funded community oversight board with significant investigatory and disciplinary powers and communities should have a say on how they are policed.

  5. Like many others have pointed out, I also agree that this is a powerful image. I agree with Laura that this image somewhat villainizes the police, like a lot of the media has been portraying. While I agree, the system is problematic, and it could also depend on the individual police, it is unfair to group the police force as a whole. I appreciated how the article provided suggestions on how we can initiate change, instead of simply pointing the finger at someone or point out the problem. Initially, I was skeptical about whether the suggestions would make a difference, but it made me think back to when you mentioned how Mandela was never logical or realistic either, I felt more optimistic…he started somewhere and he kept pushing for it. I hope that we can also work together to create change in regards to the issues dealing with police force.

  6. With all the tragedy and injustice in the world, it is important to do everything in your power to remain optimistic. Even though we are not there yet, we need to remain optimistic. The bad news is that these things still are occurring. However, there is increasing publicity surrounding these incidents, and increasing outrage that they still are occurring. Change can never come fast enough, but hopefully we are seeing signs that change is coming. Although it is easier said than done, I think the three steps that are laid out in the article give people something to focus their attention on and a framework that can help them to keep working toward change.

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