Today, The Washington Post reported findings from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation of the fatal shooting of Terrence Sterling, an unarmed Black man who was operating a motorcycle at the time of the incident. The investigation found that the MPD officer who shot and killed Mr. Sterling had no reason to pull his gun and was not in danger when he fired, deeming the use of force unjustified. The Post explained:
The 34-page report also concluded that Sterling was trying to maneuver around the cruiser, not ram it. And investigators noted that Trainer told them that, other than Sterling’s reckless driving, he did not have any reason to think the motorcyclist may have been ‘armed and dangerous.’ Trainer’s decision to shoot ‘was not in defense of his life, nor was it in defense of the lives of others,’ according to the report.
Earlier this year, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against the officer on the basis that that they did not find enough evidence to pursue a case.
As I have previously discussed, we need to hold our government accountable when tragedies such as this occur. We need to call for independent prosecutors, implicit bias and cultural awareness training for police departments, and improve police/community relations. We cannot stop fighting until we see measurable impact. If transformation will not come from our elected officials and others in power, we must serve as a strong voice to advocate for justice.
Today marks the first day of Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration of Black community and culture. The holiday is centered around seven principles: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). You are encouraged to give from your heart, so Kwanzaa gifts are generally handmade. Collectively, the values of Kwanzaa represent my personal views of the holiday season. We should direct our attention to the importance of spending quality time with loved ones as opposed to spending tremendous amounts of money on expensive gifts.
Have you ever looked around a restaurant or even a party and noticed that almost all of the guests are glued to their phones? Studies show that one in four people spend more time socializing online than they do in person. Sometimes we just need to put the phone down. Creating space for quiet time allows us to simply be thankful for the people in our lives.
Recently, I came across an incredible resource, We Buy Black. This website is designed to serve as a marketplace for Black owned businesses to sell their products and services worldwide. We Buy Black embodies the seven principles of Kwanzaa. As articulated on its website, the Black dollar only circulates within the community for 6 hours. Blacks face the highest rates of unemployment, poverty, and incarceration. However, Black owned businesses employ more Blacks than anyone other than the government. So, when you spend your money this holiday season, buy Black. We must support our own in order to work towards eliminating the systemic issues faced by our community.
As we prepare to enter 2018, I challenge you to spend time on strengthening your relationships rather than spending your hard earned money on material things. I assure you, you will feel a renewed sense of gratitude and self-worth.
Photo Credit: www.kwanzaalights.com
Melanie Bates is an attorney based in Washington, D.C. She has a passion for criminal justice reform and believes that poverty, lack of education, and other social issues should not feed the pipeline to prison. Through consistent advocacy, she desires to alleviate the factors that force many people to become a part of the criminal justice system. The views expressed here are her own.