I cry pretty easily. Really, it doesn’t take much. When we read Harry Potter, I get weepy when Mrs. Weasley shows Harry any kind of motherly affection (I know, don’t judge). But last night, while watching The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, I cried for real.
Lawrence showed an interview with Kasim Walters. He’s a high school student from Brooklyn who’s been stopped and frisked at least eight times. Now I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve been following the whole stop-and-frisk issue in a sort of cursory way — “outraged” over the idea that people shouldn’t be randomly picked off the street to be searched. And of course it’s upsetting that it’s clearly racist — I mean, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that it’s mainly African-Americans who are being targeted.
But last night, while listening to Kasim, the whole story finally hit me. Really hit me. It broke my heart to hear this young man tell the story of having his school bag thrown to the ground and being scared to death by police. Maybe it’s because I’ve just started watching Orange is the New Black and could picture my lilly-white-ish ass in prison with all my freedoms removed — with no say, no power, no recourse. Maybe I could finally imagine my husband, my 21-year-old cousin, or myself — with my kids in tow — being stopped and terrorized by this “policy.” Maybe like so much in life, we don’t fully understand something until it becomes personal.
I beg you take a few minutes to watch this interview. It starts at minute four of the video, and if it doesn’t affect the way you view this issue, well then. . . frankly I don’t even know what to say.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ”I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It makes me sick to know that fifty years later, we’re living in an America where the police routinely go around bullying 13-year-old school kids to the point that they’re afraid to report being robbed. It makes me sick to know that I’ll be telling my children this story.
We need to do better. And we need to it today.
Time to stop dreaming.