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An Open Letter To Those Who Cared About Poussey Washington’s Death

With the new season of Orange Is The New Black coming June 9, a lot of old emotions have bubbled to the surface. People have very mixed opinions regarding the final episodes of season four. On the one hand, the show failed in their representation of police brutality by the aggressor they chose. They gave us a young kid who didn’t know what he was doing; A kid who held no prejudices, who was simply afraid. We know that this is all too often not the case.

On the other hand, the show made a good point. While they did introduce characters who were awful and abused their authority, like “Humps”, also known as Officer Humphrey, they also demonstrated the importance of acknowledging that police brutality and misconduct is about more than just a few bad apples. It’s about the entire system that allows these “bad apples” to thrive. We saw this in Poussey’s death not being honored, in her body lying on the floor for days, in corporate needing to create a false narrative to excuse her death, and in the fellow officers who lied to protect themselves and one another.

Look, I get it. I cared about Poussey’s death too; I cried for over an hour when I saw the episode for the first time. It cut so deep for me because it wasn’t only about the fictional story. It was a story some of us know all too well.

For those who cared about Poussey Washington’s death — did you cry for Sandra Bland?

When you were rooting for the prisoners of the show with your eyes glued to the screen, were you praying for protesters in the street? When Poussey kept repeating that she couldn’t breathe, were you reminded of Eric Garner?

For those who cared about a character’s death on a show, wow, there are so many of you. Noticeably more than the number that show up to local Black Lives Matter rallies, or to workshops, or to town hall meetings. So many mourned a character, a caricature of real people who’ve been murdered, but didn’t call their representatives to demand justice when another name was added to the endless list of bodies.

For those who cared about Poussey Washington’s death, when you saw it, were you disgusted? Heartbroken? Did your blood boil? To all of you, when you turn off Netflix and turn on the news to see another black boy or girl murdered in real life, do you feel the same?

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Jasmine Hart is a Communications & Journalism and Sociology double-major and Women's Studies and American Culture & Difference double-minor at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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