The Wash, Rinse, and Repeat of Being Black In America Today
My daily morning routine (unfortunately) currently feels a lot like Groundhog Day. I wake up and peruse Facebook and without fail, nearly every day I’m met with another story of some Black person meeting their demise at the hands of law enforcement. I’m then generally moved to saying some sort of muffled profanity as to not wake up the rest of my house, typically asleep, enjoying the last few moments of peace before being hit with another round of tragic news.
It’s getting old. Very old. Actually, it’s been old for a very long time because it’s the same thing, every time. The police encounter a Black person doing any number of legal things, usually on the way to address something else, and then a series of unfortunate events transpires and only one person or group of persons is left to tell the tale of the preceding minutes. Before camera phones and social movements became hell bent on uncovering the truth, nearly every single one of these newly deceased individuals met their demise because they refused to comply, resisted arrest, and were all doing something that caused the powers that be to feel an immediate threat to their safety or the safety of law enforcement.
Nearly always, the story the police provided became the lasting narrative of an individual gone rogue who forced the well-trained and prepared for their job police officers to do the unthinkable and take another person’s life.
We all know that to be false nowadays. I don’t know how anybody, white, Black, or other, doesn’t question every single police report ever written at this point. I’m beyond the point of “there are good police and bad police”. No, there are police and police have been lying and tarnishing the names of individuals for as long as they could. Now there are body cameras, but for some reason they continue to malfunction or disengage at an alarming rate. Those body cameras have a mind of their own, it seems. I do not trust police officers. Any of them. I don’t care if they’re in my family or if they’re in the family of somebody I love and care about. I know, and we have an overwhelming amount of support here, that when it comes to descriptions of circumstances, they almost always favor the police officer. Only now have the tremendous amounts of videos begun to shake those narratives. And even then, the police departments attempt to justify away what we see.
Terence Crutcher was an unarmed man who was shot by police for what seems like no reason. He needed help. He got dead.
Let the police tell it, he was reaching into his vehicle which put Officer Betty Shelby into “fear” mode and gave her both the state-mandated authority and likely, innate fear of a Black man that caused her to end Mr. Crutcher’s life. Based on video, however, it doesn’t seem like he reached into his vehicle at all. It looks like he couldn’t. Because it looks like the window was rolled up.
Why did he walk away, they ask? Why didn’t he just comply, they ask? Why didn’t he just get down on the ground, they ask?
I hate “they”. I also hate you if you are “they”. This is a man who has undoubtedly watched the news and seen everything the rest of us have seen. He knew how it could end up. They allegedly found PCP on the scene. Maybe he was out of his mind. But none of the actions we saw looked like he needed to die. Unfortunately for him, it ended up exactly how it could have. The video is disturbing. There is a frame of a video that shows three police officers pointing guns at Mr. Crutcher who is laying dead on the ground with what looks like a line of blood running down the driver’s side door of the car. It is another day where another Black person’s life came to an alternate ending was almost certainly a possibility.
If you comply, you won’t end up dead. Yeah. Right. Black bodies have been killed in every single possible way you can end up dead at the hands of police. Complying. Not complying. Running. Standing. Running away from. Walking towards. In a car. Near a tree. In a street. In the woods. On a highway. At night. During the day. Is every single person who has been killed a saint? Not at all. Did any of them put themselves in position for some level of force to be used against them? Sure. But did they all deserve their day in court? Absolutely.
We see the images and videos of Black bodies being murdered. We then see images and videos of people in other communities, largely white people, interacting with police with guns pointed and for some reason that same fear isn’t there. A Black man without a gun is more scary to a white police officer than a white man with a gun trained on him. If that doesn’t speak directly to centuries of white oppression, I don’t know what does. White supremacy created a psychological monster that it has been using the police to destroy. Now we have videos and its harder to sell that same line. Before police always seemed to catch the benefit of the doubt, now I don’t see how they ever get it. I don’t see how they don’t understand the frustration felt from so many people who committed atrocities being able to see their day in court. Armed and dangerous men are apprehended alive. Yet, if we just comply, we’ll see that equal treatment across the board.
In Charlotte, Keith Lamont Scott was killed after an interaction in which police said he had a gun. Apparently he got out of the car with a gun. Mr. Scott wasn’t even the reason the police were in the area and he ended up dead. It’s the same old song, with a different beat. His family and others say he didn’t have a gun. I don’t know what happened, but I instinctively refuse to take the police at their word. I can’t. Too many times people who resemble me and my family have been on the losing end of a wrongful conviction or police-as-judge-jury-and-executioner end of police interactions.
Hell, police BLEW up the Dallas sniper. Where was that due process? They used a freaking robot bomb to blow a man up, and then told us that they’d exhausted all forms of talking him into surrender. How do we know this? Nobody but the people there ever will. The fact that they have the authority to blow a man up is problematic; the fact that I’m supposed to believe anything a police officer of any stripe says is laughable.
It’s also the reason why despite nobody in the Black community feeling happy about a man shooting police officers who were just doing their job, almost none of us felt any real sympathy for the police as a whole. They lost members of their community; they lost fathers, sons, brothers, etc.
Yet somehow, nobody in the white power structure seems to really view the losses of life of the Black community the same way. They’re people who just didn’t comply. Let the police tell it, Black people are out here committing suicide-by-cop as a rule. It’s bad enough that we can’t seem to stop killing ourselves, I mean, Black-on-Black crime!
I’m dumbfounded by the fact that so many people in non-minority communities don’t recognize any of this as an epidemic. Colin Kaepernick takes a knee to protest the very thing we all wake up to every morning on the news and white people lose their shit. They see these deaths as Black people acting badly and getting themselves shot by cops. And so many are intentionally so obtuse as to assume that movements intended to end police brutality are an affront to civility and peace everywhere. Black people want to view interactions with the police the same way white people do and somehow that’s a radical notion. We want the same access to life as a crazy white man pointing a gun at a cop at a ranch in Nevada.
But we’re the crazy ones with too high expectations. If we act right, then everything will be alright. But we want to act a fool and expect police to expend the reaches of their patience. We are unreasonable.
I’m tired of having to explain Black Lives Matter, not because I don’t think it’s an unworthy thing to explain, but because to NOT get it is intentional. To not recognize that the often questionable and too frequent state-mandated violence on communities of color is a problem is intentional. To make excuses for police is intentional. To be a cop and stand with people you know make mistakes is intentional. Not caring about the freedoms of your own citizenry is intentional.
To quote Rico from Paid In Full, “N*ggas get shot everyday, b”.
And to quote T-Mo Goodie from Soul Food’s “Cell Therapy” … “this sh*t has got to stop.”
I hate Groundhog Day.