Written by Frances Kunreuther
It is striking to me that in all the tension and cacophony we are experiencing here in New York City and around the country – from the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict the police involved in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and so many other young men of color, to the shooting of two police officers in Bedford Stuyvesant – it is hard to hear the voices of the people most affected.
Take the family of Police Officer Rafael Ramos. His cousin said that the family has forgiven the shooter and, his aunt remarked, “I hope and pray that we can reflect on this tragic loss of lives that have occurred so that we can move forward and find an amicable path to a peaceful coexistence.”
This is in sharp contrast to the vitriol spouted by Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, as part of a strategy in the police union’s contract negotiations. And then there are the ridiculous accusations from former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who blamed the killings on President Obama, and former Governor George Pataki who accused U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and NYC Mayor de Blasio for the police killings because they “supported” peaceful protests challenging the use of violence by police. There is something so galling about how the officers’ death – officers of color – are being used to promote political agendas.
How did the voices of Officer Ramos’ family get so lost? Or the voices of community members who struggle in areas that experience both disproportionate crime and overzealous and insensitive policing? The hateful speech we keep hearing is far away from a community that is struggling with loss and violence.
As we pass the winter solstice and the holiday season and head on towards a new year, I wonder what it would mean to really talk about the world “we the people” are creating. One that holds violent offenders – including the police – accountable for their actions in the name of love and humanity.