Submitted by Ricardo Dela Cabeza.
In 1987 my father made a bold and dangerous move. He applied for permission to move to the United States from Cuba. The next day the police came, and he was placed in prison as a warning to the family. Two years later he was released, and we moved to Miami, we left everything behind. From there we moved to Washington state. In Cuba, all are suspects (Black, White, Latino) under a State-controlled police force. When I moved to Tacoma, I was shocked that people of color were at far greater risk of police brutality than Caucasians, much different than Cuba. I was told this as a child in Cuba as part of our scholastic indoctrination.
Little has changed these last 34 years as a U.S. citizen. Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely than whites to be killed by police. I don’t fly a Black Lives Matter (BLM) flag out of fear that both I and my family will be targeted. I have found that many who are willing to publicly support the Black Lives Matter movement are white. I find that comforting and courageous. Racial equality must be the touchstone of both police and elected officials. I recently talked to a state representative about this. I loved his response. He said, “all lives matter”, to the fire department all houses matter, but the one burning matter more.“
The armed, trained, and militarized police are far from endangered, that is not the case within our black communities. Young black men are endangered on so many levels, but nothing is more terrifying to my son or my family than the possibility of him being pulled over by a white police officer. I make sure his tabs are current, he wears a seatbelt, and at least once a week check I make sure taillights work. When he drives away from our home, I always get a pit of fear in my abdomen.
It’s no accident the Blue Lives Matter (BLM) countermovement did not choose Police Lives Matter. Their choice of words is a subtle, veiled insult to the black community. It suggests their movement is more about suppressing minorities than supporting law enforcement. Blue Lives Matter is intentionally or unintentionally supporting a system of discriminatory policing. This flag is often flown by white supremacists while appearing next to Confederate flags. However, they were pervasive on 6 January 2021 on the steps of the Capitol. This flag represents division, not harmony. The firearms Sig Sauer company makes a “thin blue line pistol.” Imagine the political upheaval if they made a Black Lives Matter weapon. Let that sink in.
Yesterday while visiting a friend and driving through Steilacoom I drove past a pickup truck with a huge Blue Lives Matter flag in the rear window, parked next to a police car. It took a little investigation to find out the truck belonged to a Steilacoom police officer who lived there. My fearful thoughts immediately returned to my 17-year-old son and his friends who use Steilacoom beaches and parks.
I have chosen not to name the officer. I would however request the Town of Steilacoom’s elected officials and the chief of police (Tom Yabe) investigate and take immediate, and decisive corrective action. I would hope the officer would have the moral courage to remove it and understand the message that it sends to people of color.
National issues are now at the local level. Elections are coming to Steilacoom. I am asking those who are currently sitting in elected and appointed positions within the town of Steilacoom to have the integrity to speak out, take corrective action, or face the political consequences from their indifference or silence on this issue. City representatives, what say you?