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View From The Voice: I’ll take a latte macchiato with soy, hold the handcuffs, please…

     Two men waiting for a friend walked out of a Starbucks in handcuffs; a week later, another man kills four people in a Waffle House, and is still on the run, armed, dangerous and half-naked.

     Does that sound like an odd paradox? Like something from some weird, Twilight Zone-esque horror-comedy? It isn’t. It’s the United States in 2018, and we at The Voice find ourselves highly concerned by these disparities. Even if you’re not much into reading the news or watching it, it’s fair to say that this story has probably popped up on your timeline at least once since its breaking a little more than a week ago.

     Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson went to their local Starbucks in Philadelphia, and after reportedly being refused access to the restroom because they didn’t intend to purchase anything, they sat down to wait for a friend whom they had agreed to meet there. By the time this friend arrived, the two men, who hadn’t been seated for more than a few minutes according to eyewitnesses, were being handcuffed in a rapid response from the police.
Though Starbucks refused to press charges, the two men initially were detained for causing a disturbance and trespassing, despite video evidence and eyewitness accounts of the opposite. Now, we’ll look ahead to one week after the incident in Philadelphia, and we’ll head to Nashville.

     Travis Reinking, 29, originally from Illinois, shot up a Waffle House near the city of Nashville, Tennessee early Sunday morning. He killed four people and wounded several others before being forced by patrons, not police, to flee the scene. It took more than 24 hours after the shooting for the armed suspect to be captured–yes, he’s been taken in alive.

     Reinking had been arrested several months earlier for trespassing at the White House, and had his firearms license revoked in his home state. The firearms, including what is believed to be an AR-15 or similar weapon that was used in the shooting, were given by police to Reinking’s father, who later returned them to his son because he didn’t believe his son should have had them taken away. So, what is the most noticeable difference here? We at The Voice see one, at least on the surface: race.

     It is a proven fact that race as a measurable difference in humans is nonexistent. Scientists and anthropologists have shown that variances in human skin tones are insignificant in terms of differentiating one group of people from the next. We at The Voice see a connection of racism in this incident at Starbucks, but it is an illustration of a larger problem, which is the unequal application of laws and policies.

     Law is meant to apply equally to everyone, which was one of the reasons why America at its founding was so against the idea of a monarch who was above the law. However, when looking at the above cases, it’s clear that laws are not being practiced equally, and in the past month alone, we’ve seen multiple examples of that unequal application.

     In New York, police shot a man 10 times, resulting in his death, when callers reported that he appeared to be aiming something that looked like a gun around the neighborhood. According to eyewitnesses, police officers did not tell the man to stop, identify themselves, or demand that he put down what turned out to be a pipe; instead, they shot him, later discovering through interviews that the man was a local with a history of “quirky” behavior and a likely developmental disorder, although he was described by neighbors as entirely harmless.

     A few weeks prior to this, the nation erupted into disagreement when 22-year-old Stephon Clark was shot multiple times in his grandmother’s backyard as police were in pursuit of suspected vandal who supposedly matched Clark’s general appearance, despite the fact that it was late in the evening and was dark outside. Clark had a cell phone, which police claimed was a gun and later a crowbar. While these cases rocked the nation, other cases were cause for alarm in the opposite direction.

     Dylan Roof, after killing nine people at an African American church, was given full body armor and was taken to have something to eat before going to jail. Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in his own neighborhood, and his killer was considered justified for shooting him for nothing, and he wasn’t a police officer.

     Police in the United States, like elsewhere, have every right to defend themselves and come home to their families alive. But in places like Germany, Norway and Japan, there are almost no police-related shootings, and those that occur are very evidently justified. There are no grey areas, not with all the training and evidence-gathering equipment that departments have.

      There are programs to treat them like humans who are facing personal financial crises. We at The Voice see no reason for America to not train our police better or, as in the case of Starbucks, train our employees better in issues of policy enforcement and equality. Laws are on the books for a reason, and everyone, no matter the color of their skin should be subject to them equally.

~The Voice

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