“I just called for help, and you came and killed him,” she said. “I told you guys he’s sick. You guys came and killed my brother.” – sister of Alfred Olango, a mentally ill, unarmed black man who was killed in California.
She called the police herself, because her brother was acting erratically and walking into traffic. “He’s mentally ill,” she told the police. “He’s unarmed, but he’s mentally ill, and I’m worried about him because he’s blocking traffic.”
It took an hour for the police to arrive on the scene, and 1 minute after arrival, the man was shot. He had been pointing a vape stick at the police, who thought it was a weapon.
This is why police departments need more funding and support to be able to deal with mentally ill civilians. This is why police departments need more support and funding for de-escalation training. This is why police departments need accountability.
And this is why many black people have “trust issues” with police. It never crosses my mind that I’ll one day call 911 for help for a family member, and they’ll end up dead.
This is why, like Martin Luther Kind Junior, I’m okay with saying #blacklivesmatter, I’m okay with some disruption in this season, I’m okay with blocking traffic and shutting down airports and malls. I’m not okay with violence. I’m never okay with violence- but the whole point of nonviolent action is to make visible the violence that has been happening invisibly in corners. That’s why MLK used children in his marches. That’s why he chose the violent Bull Conner’s corner of the world to conduct his Selma march.
“You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth…
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
-Martin Luther King Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail