Who’s got the Power?

Sometimes there’s an image that sums up a conflict. In one moment it frames the conflict revealing a truth that is hard to ignore. The burned girl running from napalm in Vietnam, revealed the brutal and unforgiving impact of modern weapons released onto a rural society. The man standing alone in front of a column of tanks in Tienanmen Square, demonstrated the massive imbalance of power between the protesters and the Chinese government.

America has a new image, a woman staring down almost impossibly armored riot police in Baton Rouge.

The serene, proud and defiant figure that forced the police to come out from their lines and arrest her. What is happening here is on her terms. She holds the power in this photo. The police in their riot gear look over-equipped and all the weaker for it. A couple of normal police officers arresting her would not have had the same impact. It would have seemed too ordinary. What’s happened here is that she has demonstrated the police force’s total overreaction of the police to a people’s plea to be safe. It’s almost as if they are at war with their own people and she’s called it out.

The thing about these iconic photos is that they stay with us forever. They are timeless but for those that remember the event, the image will bring us right back to these times. And who knows when and how this will end. I hope that these events lead to meaningful change, that people with darker skin are safer from the overreaction of a highly strung police force. That the police return to the role that they should play, from enforcer to protector. That people stop dying needlessly. That people can stop living in fear of the people that are supposed to protect them. That this image represent a turning point.

African Americans have come a long way in gaining their civil rights. They can vote, get an education, becomes doctors, lawyers or movie stars. They can lead armies. One of their number can even rise to the highest office in the land. It seems ironic that the last bastion of rights they have to fight for is for their lives to be treated equally to those of white people.

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