As an expatriate in South Korea, I’m watching events unfold with a unique perspective.
I am not a minority in the U.S. and certainly cannot and will not be able to speak to the personal experience of my minority American brothers and sisters.
Ever since I was young, my father has taught my brothers and I to be highly skeptical of all police: “If he pulls you over, don’t get out. Don’t open your trunk. He has no legal rights to do that without a warrant. He may place damning evidence on or in your car and frame you. If a police car is following you on an empty road at night do not pull over.”
When I was thirteen or fourteen I was once running in my neighborhood and stopped to look at a small stream. The policewoman at the house next door had just gotten off shift and approached to ask me all kinds of questions: my name, my address, my parents, what I was doing, did I know I was trespassing (I didn’t, it was a stream between two houses).
When I got home and told my parents, my dad shook his head. She’s on a power trip, he said.
Families of law enforcement experience two to four times the domestic violence of the general population.
Flying back into American customs in Detroit in 2018, I was shocked and frightened. Korean customs was an efficient if unfriendly place that scolded me for not writing down my full address.
In Detroit, officers with machine guns pointed at the ground scanned the crowd at immigration. This was how I was greeted in my own country? I’ve been to a lot of different customs points around the world and only my home country has treated it like the DMZ.
This shouldn’t be the expectation.
There is so much I want to see my country improve: for-profit jails and the incarceration system, gun laws, women’s rights, police brutality, income inequality, ICE abuse, immigration policies, voting rights, pandemic responses. In light of the most recent events, policy changes regarding policing most especially towards our Black American countrymen are my most urgent focus.
This article points to the following changes we need to make in order to reduce police brutality:
- Police unions cannot have limits to officer accountability in their contracts
- Track complaints about use of force
- Restrict use of force
- Triage the emergency call system
- Establish independent federal oversight for police departments
- Demilitarize the police force and roll back the Pentagon program 1033; officers do not need armored vehicles, bayonets, or grenade launchers
Representatives Gallego and Johnson are co-sponsors to the bill Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 1714). Representative Amash has introduced Ending Qualified Immunity so that officers are not above lawsuits where the victim’s rights were violated; even now qualified immunity is bipartisanly opposed and my be struck down in one of several pending court cases.
This NPR article also parallels these points and says that police are not social workers:
But police are violence workers. That’s what distinguishes them from all other government functions. … They have the legal capacity to use violence in situations where the average citizen would be arrested. So when we turn a problem over to the police to manage, there will be violence, because those are ultimately the tools that they are most equipped to utilize: handcuffs, threats, guns, arrests. That’s what really is at the root of policing. So if we don’t want violence, we should try to figure out how to not get the police involved.
We need to triage social issues to groups other than the police– mental health workers, firefighters, EMTs.
As someone living in a country with more social programs, this especially stuck out to me:
We’re invested in this kind of austerity politics that says the government can’t afford to really do anything to lift people up. We have to put all our resources into subsidizing the already most successful parts of the economy. But those parts of the economy are producing this huge group of people who are homeless, unemployed, have untreated mental health and substance abuse problems. And then we ask the police to put a lid on those problems — to manage them so they don’t interfere with the “order” that we’re supposedly all benefiting from.
Somewhat reassuringly, this Twitter post offers that Korean politics seem to be about five to ten years ahead of the US and if we mirror South Korea, we are very close to stable and lasting change, if we can keep the momentum as we move towards the election.
Here are some experiences from Black Americans in South Korea:
Jarrett is a fifth grade teacher who feels safer in Korea than home and teaches his students by example. He explains his experience with Korean versus American police (he bowed at them and they bowed back and I laughed a little, us foreigners have it ingrained now):
Five thousand miles away and I am watching my country quite literally burn on local news. Online resources with immediate actions recommend joining a protest or contributing to a mutual aid fund– but a world away I feel like I can’t reach out a hand to my countrymen.
So I wondered, what can I do?
I will educate myself. I will vote. I will donate to organizations that support equality and give aid. I will make contact with my representatives.
I am registered to vote in Georgia so I am narrowing my focus there. With the help of Resist Bot I will contact my lawmakers. So far I’ve reached out to my local representatives to vote in favor of the bills Stopping Militarization of Police and Ending Qualified Immunity.
Other things I’ve done that you can too:
- Sign a petition or send a card for Breonna Taylor
- Sign the petition for George Floyd.
- Donate across all bail bonds with this link.
- Use ResistBot to send messages to your representatives or copy others’.
- Access anti racism links that have been circulating such as Robin DiAngelo’s book on white fragility or Emmanuel Acho’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” on Facebook and YouTube.
I am proud of my fellow Americans for speaking out and I hope we can bring about a better future.