Right now, many Americans are awaiting for the second autopsy results from Sandra Bland’s death, who died in police custody under suspicious circumstances. Sandra’s family has requested that we all wait for the results of the official investigation, so I will not speculate how she died. However, as a white person, I would like to say some things about this situation and the other situations that mirror this one…

1) The police are not infallible.

There are many people who want to defend the police as a gut impulse, no matter what the circumstances, because we, as Americans, want to believe in truth, justice, and the American way. Ideally, the police should be the defenders of all these things, and fortunately there are many officers who do their jobs wonderfully well and are remarkably fair to everyone they meet. It is nice to think of a police officer as some sort of Captain America, without the superhuman strength and the funny-looking costume.


Police officers are people. They are not infallible. They are not perfect. They can make mistakes. They can be bigoted. They can be racists. They can be mean. They can get unreasonably angry with people. They can do terrible, terrible things. They can kill people. And they can do this all while justifying their actions under the law and hiding under protections which were made for police officers.

Of course, we don’t want to think about that. Even Anne Frank, who died in the Nazi concentration camps, wrote in her diary, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” This is from Anne Frank, while she was holed up in an attic eating endless amounts of rotten potatoes because Nazis wanted to exterminate the Jewish race. She even didn’t want to think the worst of people. Guess what? We don’t want to think of the worst of people either. We want to believe that people act their best, especially when they are in such powerful positions in our community.

But, clearly, this is not the case. There have been too many cases that have been reported lately that show us that police officers are not perfect and that their actions are not necessarily justifiable and perfect for every situation. So why do so many people rush to the police officer’s aid before the evidence has had a chance to be filtered through in a fair and unbiased manner?

It’s beautiful that we can have such idealism. It really is. But let’s be more realistic about what is going on, please. Too many people have died to pretend that everything is fine. If we are serious about establishing truth, justice, and the American way for everyone, then that means we have to hold ourselves and our actions accountable to the justice system.

And that includes police officers.

2. The death sentence should not be given out on a whim.

When there is a death of suspects in police custody, sometimes there are people who say that so-and-so probably deserved it because the police officer thought that this person was acting suspiciously when they were arrested.

This whole idea is wrong.

Suspicion does not mean guilt.

Guilt must be established using legitimate proof in a court of law. An officer’s gut feeling should not be enough to indict a person. And it definitely should not be enough to give that person an automatic death sentence.

This is not to say that, were a police officer in a position where self defense was necessary that they shouldn’t defend themselves. They should. But, the majority of the cases that have come out recently are not self-defense cases, and many times the police officer just seems to be taking out some pent up frustration or anger on another person who does not deserve it.

Can it suck to have pent up anger and frustration issues related to the job? Yeah. But, just as retail workers have to control themselves when they get harassed about incorrect pricing and food service workers have to control themselves when they are serving patrons that refuse to leave tips, so too police officers need to control themselves when they feel harassed or inconvenienced or have to deal with temporary secondhand smoke.

Suspects need to be treated with respect. Even if — nay — especially when this is hard to do. They are suspects, not necessarily criminals. And, even when they’re criminals, they’re still people.

Let me repeat that: they’re still people.

Too many people forget that.

3. It is reasonable for black people to be suspicious when they are stopped by the police.

One of the biggest problems that officers face is that they rely heavily on gut feelings when stopping someone. Unfortunately, much of their gut feelings depends on the other person’s actions and whether they are evasive when dealing with the police. Thus, even an officer who tries to act without the slightest racist action can be naturally suspicious towards black people because many black people are suspicious of the police and will act evasively.

But. The reason why many black people are evasive is partly because of racism, which still exists, and because there have been a string of highly publicized wrongful deaths concerning innocent black people and police. So, guess what? They are suspicious of the police, and quite rightly so. I know that, were I in the same position, I would be very much scared.

There are so many people who like to point out that a disproportionate amount of black people are convicted as criminals, and thus police should be more wary with black people. However, those same people that quote these statistics quite eagerly forget that there is also a startling number of innocent black people who are killed by police, and that makes black people wary of police. The statistics works both ways. Why shouldn’t black people be distrustful of police?

So, when police officers stop black people for anything, they should be trained to expect more evasion from black people and not to automatically assume that this means guilt. Which means they need to be more patient and forgiving toward people who may be distrustful toward them and not immediately attack them.

Simple as that.

4. Black people are people.

Yes, they can make mistakes. They are people, after all. People are not infallible, as I said in the first point. But, their lives do matter. And they are people. Don’t paint them all as criminal thugs who justly deserve death without even the benefit of due process. They are people. Their lives matter.

Have I repeated myself enough?

Final thoughts

What is happening is not acceptable.

Racism is alive and kicking in America, whether we like it or not. Yes, we have made progress in the last hundred years to combat racism, and that is fantastic. We even have a black president! But, we still have a lot more work to do. There are black people who are afraid of even a traffic ticket as having a deadly consequence, and it is clear that their fears are reasonably founded on reality. This has to change.

Now is not the time to pretend that racism doesn’t exist. It does. We cannot say it doesn’t when black churches are being destroyed through arson or gunshots. We cannot say it doesn’t when nine members of a black congregation are massacred by a lone gunman while they are praying at a bible study. We cannot say it doesn’t when even our police — the people we trust to defend truth, justice, and the American way — kill black men and women, either through their direct actions or their passive neglect.

This is not good.

There are too many dead bodies that surround us to sit back with our blinders on and pretend that everything is okay. It isn’t. We need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. There is not much we can do about the psychopaths that work alone, but we employ the police to defend and serve us. Shouldn’t we be able to make them stand up for their actions — good or bad — and make them live with the consequences? Shouldn’t we make sure that justice is served?

And maybe — just maybe! — by making a stand, we’ll be able to influence things for the better and truly make a difference.

After all, we’ve made such good progress in the last hundred years. Why stop now?