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None Can Doubt That Racism Is An Urgent Issue In Our Society Today

The disturbing evidence of police brutality against black people is extremely concerning, and our legal system has not responded effectively.

Our Nation’s streets are filled with protesters who urge redress of grievances.

It is vitally important that the voices of the oppressed be heeded. The protesters challenge their communities, and the government, to respond.

None can doubt that oppression has occurred in our very own community, in Portland, Oregon.

In May of 2003, Kendra James, a young black woman, was brutally shot and killed by a Portland police officer. Though mortally wounded, she was not given proper care. Tragically, Kendra spent her last moments lying unconscious in the back of a police car. Instead of seeking medical attention for Kendra, Officer McCollister claimed he was in “fear” of being possibly run-over in Kendra’s attempt to flee the scene, so he continued to create a crime scene perimeter. Kendra was not even suspected of any wrongdoing; she was a mere passenger in the vehicle of someone who had warrants.

The case of Kendra James is only one example of a young black person losing her life as a result of callous lack of care in the part of law enforcement. There is reason to believe McCollister knew that Kendra was not a threat and that he acted simply on impulse. The police were never held accountable for this tragic loss of a young person’s life.

Another tragic death of a young black citizen at the hands of a Portland police officer, was that of 24 year old Terrell Johnson. In May of 2017, Terrell was unnecessarily and senselessly shot three times in the chest by officer Ajir after fleeing a Southeast Portland transit station.

Terrell was accused of wielding a knife, and after a short pursuit, he allegedly began to swing the knife towards officer Ajir before Ajar fired shots.

Ajir has not been held accountable for this tragic loss of life, as he claimed that his actions were carried out in self defense against someone who appeared to be mentally ill.

However, Ajir did not follow proper procedure for “foot pursuits,” and if he had followed proper procedures, Terrell may still be alive today. Terrell’s family attempted to seek justice through a lawsuit seeking compensation for “wrongful death”.

45 year old Jason Washington is yet another example of poor police conduct toward our fellow black citizens. In June of 2018, Washington had removed a pistol from his friend Jeremy Wilkinson after a night of drinking. Washington had every right to do so, as he had a concealed handgun license.

A fight ensued after Wilkinson had been accused of using a racial slur while officers James Dewey and Shawn McKenzie were on the scene. Washington, who was in the process of walking away from the fight, was then shot dead by Portland State University officers.

Washington was handcuffed, and placed in the back of a police car, where he was pronounced dead after the arrival of paramedics. In a quick moment where Washington should not have been deemed a threat to police, his life was still wrongfully taken from him.

Both officers were ruled by the Multnomah County grand jury free of possible criminal prosecution. Though Portland State University has paid Washington’s family $1 million due to this horrendous incident, and has also placed funding into further training of campus cops, this still does not erase the brutality of this senseless loss of life; nor has Washington’s family received the justice they deserve.

These cases should never be forgotten, nor should the lack of prosecution against these officers be taken lightly.

“Black Lives Matter” is not just a slogan, it is an urgent plea for justice, an expression of black voices who were unjustly cut short, as well as those still suffering through the oppression placed upon them solely because of their skin color.

Even in the past several weeks, in various parts of this country, other black lives have been cut short as a result of police brutality.

Tragic instances such as these happen more often than most people think.

Change starts with protests, closely following the news, and holding officers accountable for their callous actions toward our black brothers and sisters.

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