Every day that I wake up to a news report of another black man losing his life by the hand of the law enforcement officers that are responsible for protecting the citizens of this country I want abandon my worldly possessions, quit my job, and what to throw myself into keeping it from happening again. As a rationally thinking person I can acknowledge that black men are not the only demographic who have lost their lives to excessive force by a police officer. I can also acknowledge that there are split second decisions that police officers need to make every day in the line of duty that many civilians can’t understand. However as an emotional human being it is beyond my comprehension that in the fourth month of the year 2015 in the United States of America it has become open season on black men.
They caught us slipping. We were so busy celebrating that we have an extremely charismatic, (and contrary to some) effective, hardworking black president. We’ve got black billionaires and millionaires with their own networks, TV shows, sports teams, and what seems like more influence than ever. We have black men and women being nominated for and winning awards for their achievements in fields other than sports. We are so used to having the right to vote that we don’t even exercise it anymore. As you looked around it seemed like racism and segregation was a thing of the past.
Then our world was rocked when Trayvon Martin was murdered for simply being a young black man wearing a hoodie at the wrong place with the wrong vigilante. This wasn’t the first black man murdered based on how someone else perceived him because of the color of his skin but this incident brought race to the forefront of the country’s mind. It was like an antenna going up. No longer were racial comments or stereotypes brushed away, they were now going to be taken for face value.
When the story of Oscar Grant was made into a movie and shown in theaters all of the country it should’ve been a reminder that no matter how much respect we think we’ve earned, no matter equal we think the world sees us, no matter how much we try to bend, adapt, and assimilate there are people who simply believe that our existence, contributions, and rights are inferior.
Now it wasn’t bad enough that someone sought out a black that wasn’t a threat to him and took his life, but then a jury decided that his actions didn’t warrant repercussion. A young man lost his life based on the color of his skin, what he was wearing in a neighborhood where it was perceived that he didn’t belong and the man who murdered him was able to walk free and continue to live his life. Of course no one thought this would continue to happen all over the country years later. And who could fathom that police officers would take advantage of the perception that a black man’s life is devalued in this country.
Eric Garner was a black man perceived as a threat because of his size by police officers and was choked to death in the street no different than a hunter tackling and killing his prey. Eric Garner can’t help that he grew to be tall and he wasn’t using his weight as a threat or even approaching police officers. After the video of how he was killed and how his body was treated the police officer faced no charges.
The next day I saw video of a black man clearly distressed who took 2 items of merchandise out of store and sat them on the curb. He stayed in the area until police arrived and within seconds of them getting out of their vehicle he was shot dead. Two weeks after Garner, John Crawford was murdered by police for holding a toy gun that he wasn’t using to threaten anyone in a store. Then a week later unarmed Michael Brown was shot six times. None of these officers faced criminal charges.
If the justice system declares open season on black men by representing them as being involved in illegal activity by default, providing jurors with overwhelming, confusing, and at times contradictory evidence which results in no charges being filed, and justifying the actions of the officer by making the victims the problem then why would the killings stop? Instead officers are getting more emblazoned.
Walter Scott was shot eight times in the back trying to run away and after shooting at him like it was a day at target practice, the officer planted evidence next to his body. When Eric Harris was shot while being held down by officers when a gun was mistaken for a Taser an officer yelled “fuck your breath” when he complained that he couldn’t breathe. Freddie Gray was reportedly injured so badly while in police custody that his injuries resulted in death.
In the end there are no charges brought against these officers or they settle for a lesser charge resulting in probation or a few months in jail. So the moral of the story is that regardless of if you’ve committed a crime, before you have the opportunity of due process to be tried and found guilty by your “peers”, the death penalty is being executed at the mercy of the next police office you encounter. There are mass murderers, rapist, terrorist, people who have gotten past the Secret Service into the White House, men have physically attacked police officers that have been apprehended alive and given their due process. But a black man running away from police is shot to death.
Body cameras may help, but all of these acts have been recorded with cell phones or dash cameras which hasn’t seemed to be a deterrent. Marching draws attention after a tragedy has happened. It brings us together but the same kind of unity needs to be demonstrated before someone loses their life. More needs to be done that posting hashtags and RIPs on our timelines. No matter how insignificant you think your one vote is, if we all stop voting then the people being elected won’t have our best interest in mind. Change isn’t going to come unless it starts with us.