Tag Archives: police brutality

A round of applause for police brutality?

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

With the line of what is acceptable being crossed and then pushed back with each outlandish action from the current White House administration and decency being redefined to accommodate the indefensible behavior of President Donald Trump, it is hard not to become disgusted by the hypocrisy.  I am well past feeling disappointed.  What is acceptable, good and right is being changed with each interview, after each commercial break.  This is democracy.  Truth created by the people for the people.

And true to form, Mr. Trump has been consistent in speech and character, each tweet and speech outdoing the other.  Recently, two speeches warranted statements from the groups he was speaking to, here being the Boy Scouts and then to police officers in Long Island, New York.  While both are disgusting, the latter is deeply troubling.  Because the sitting President of the United States endorsed police brutality.  He told police to break the law.  To which he initially received applause.

Applause.  Agreement with violating the rights and personhood of citizens who may or may not be suspects?  See “innocent until proven guilty.”  Applause.  Affirmation of wrong- doing by those who have sworn an oath to uphold the law– not bring it down to their level and prejudices?  Applause.  Appreciation because the President is saying what you want to say or giving voice to what you really want to do, to some people, to those thugs he mentioned?  Applause.   Permission to incite fear in the residents you have agreed to serve and protect?

And these are police in communities– not soldiers at war with an enemy in a foreign land.  Police officers are patrolling America’s city streets and country roads where persons are driving to school and work, persons who want to make it home to family and friends too.  With or without badges, all of us deserve honor.   But, this is not what the current Commander- In- Chief said.

Persons are worried about his access to nuclear codes but I’m concerned about his access to a microphone and a cell phone, for that matter.  Mr. Trump is far from a role model and certainly not a model president.  Still, persons are hanging on his every word and if this kind of speech is mindlessly applauded, then persons could die because of his words.

With communities living in fear, cases pending and families still mourning the deaths of their loved ones, Mr. Trump says, “Please don’t be too nice.”  With body camera and cell phone footage depicting the shooting death of unarmed American citizens, Mr. Trump says, the laws are “horrendously stacked” against police officers.  His words suggest that police officers should not be held to the highest standard of the law and that we should normalize this kind of bad behavior.  Move the line back.

But, police officers are not judge and jury.  There is due process of law.  And no one has the right to change it to accommodate police officers or a president.  Because then, it’s no law at all.  It is but the abuse of power and the passing of social privileges.

Perhaps, this endorsement of meanness is the counter response to political correctness.  I have heard it said that Mr. Trump speaks for many American people, that he says what is on their minds.  Really?  Fellow Americans would agree with the murder of other Americans without due process of law.  They would applaud that?

That’s crossing a line and that’s not democracy.

Against the Wall

A powerful public service announcement about police brutality was released a few days ago by Harry Belafonte’s sankofa.org. Notable faces are against the wall, reminding viewers that it can happen to any one.  Let’s continue the conversation on police brutality and why we remain hard- pressed to find answers.  Think about it as if you were against the wall.

 

 

 

 

Bad trees, not just bad apples

Image result for bad applesIn cases of police brutality, it is often commented that these police officers who abuse their power and exert force unwarranted, unmatched and unprovoked are a few bad apples.  We are told that these are isolated incidents and not the norm.  It is repeated that the majority of police officers are here “to serve and protect.”  And in so doing, we move from talking about specific cases to a general, more comforting and less challenging truth.

It suggests that this is an aberration.  We are expected to believe that this does not happen all the time, that there is no need for concern.  It is an invitation to focus on the good while ignoring the bleeding, dying bodies of African Americans on city streets.  Let’s celebrate the good and look past the bad.  Those officers are not a part of the police department.  They shouldn’t have been hired to begin with.

First, we distance ourselves from them and then, we begin to disassociate ourselves.  Afterwards, we are able to deny them.  They are not us.  They are not representatives of our America.  We are mostly good apples here.

But, I decline the invitation to participate in this kind of conversation and instead, invite us to go lower and to dig deeper.  We must look at the roots.  Bad apples fall from bad trees.

America has a history of unlawful use of force in the African American community.  In fact, it started on their turf, in their homeland.  Africans have been experiencing the unlawful touch of persons in power and with guns for hundreds of years.

So, reprimanding, firing and even convicting police officers who position themselves above the law is not enough.  No, we must cut down the tree and afterwards, dig up the root.  Because even one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.

When you can’t look away

Image result for mamie till over emmett till's casketA recent Washington Post article titled “Why white people need to see the searing new African American Museum” featured the image of Mamie Till leaning over her fourteen year old son, Emmett Till’s casket.  After he was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered during a visit with relatives who lived in the South, Till decided to have an open casket funeral.  She said, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.”

But, how many of these images and now videos have we already seen?  We have hash tags now.  And yet, we cannot look away.  We cannot look away because we need to see that words have consequences.  We cannot look away because we need to see what our words can do.  They are not just nasty words, politically incorrect words, inappropriate words, words not to be used in polite company but they are killing words.  Literal death sentences.

Image result for mamie till over emmett till's casket

They are humanity- denying words for both persons involved.  Killing persons because of the social coloring of their skin or using words that reduce the value of their human life are inexcusable.  It is preying upon and hunting down persons who fit a description, who look like trouble.

A Tulsa police officer witnessing the scene from a helicopter can be heard saying, “That looks like a bad dude” before an unarmed Terence Crutcher was shot and killed.  It should be noted that Mr. Crutcher was not a suspect in any crime but was stopped on the road due to car trouble.  Officer Betty Shelby has since been charged with manslaughter after a review of dash camera footage and her interview.  But, this does not mean that justice will be served since Freddie Gray’s death was ruled a homicide and yet, not a single police officer involved was convicted.

So, the next time you see a racially motivated crime, don’t put your head down or simply shake your head.  And please, don’t look away– because some of us can’t.  We can’t look away because they fit the description of a family member.  We cannot look away when they are our son or daughter, our father or mother, our spouse or friend.

Image result for mamie till over emmett till's casket

 

When I say, “Police Brutality”

Image result for police brutality African and European Americans, those socially colored black and white, have different perspectives.  That’s not the problem or even a problem.  The problem comes in when race is included in the conversation.  Because race says that only one side of the story is credible.  Race says, “White is right.”

There have been lots of conversations about race: interviews, roundtable discussions, town hall meetings.  I have watched well- dressed people, seemingly well- meaning people shout at each other, dismiss and devalue the experiences of one another.  I understand that a lot is on the line, that admission on either side could result in either the lawsuits of history being brought to bear or the innumerable cases of injustice being thrown out altogether.

We are not speaking two different languages but telling two different stories: oppressor and oppressed, privileged and burdened, center and marginalized.  We have different views because we are not in the same places and positions.  We have grown up in two different Americas, on two different sides of the track, been given two different sets of expectations, one for and the other against.

As the cases of alleged and proven police brutality continue to rise, believing that police can be brutal is unbelievable for some.  No matter the number of reports, eye witness testimonies and video recordings, you cannot make some of us accept this as a reality.  No, it will need to happen to us.  But, it probably won’t.

With the law historically on the side of those socially colored white, it is near impossible to believe that the law is not for all people.  The reasoning goes: the law is good because it is good to me.  But, this is the lie that we accept in order to hide our complicity and deny our guilt.  We don’t turn a blind eye to injustice; we see it and look the other way.  If I speak up for them, I may be viewed as one of them and lose my privileges.

We don’t really want to be “all God’s children.”  We want to be the favorite.  American exceptionalism tells us that we are.

To become a witness of oppression, socially colored white people must risk their       (in)visibility, their whiteness.  They would have to give up its privileges, no longer presumed innocent, right(eous), pure, good.  They would have to confess whiteness as a lie and offer their own life as proof of its inconsistencies.  And if they make visible the negative experiences of other cultures, they are joined with the group, losing power, position and presence.  Judged “n***** lovers,” they are out of the in group.  Now, do I have a volunteer?

We know that America is not an exception to the rule of violence, that those indigenous to what is now America, African Americans and other cultures have been oppressed in the name of whiteness.  And if you don’t know, it is your job as an American to know.  Stop calling it a “melting pot” if you want to live separately and apart from other cultures, if you don’t want to be grouped together, if you don’t want to be associated with other cultures, if we are not really all in this together.

It is important that we not only love our neighbor but that we know our neighbor.  This knowing should not be based on the rumors of race but on lived experiences together.  How can we be in a melting pot and there be no blending, no mixing, no melding together?  It should be a relationship that allows you and I to know how each other feel and to know what I mean when I am telling my side of the story.

So, when I say, “police brutality,” I am not just speaking about today, yesterday, two days, two years or even twenty years ago.

But, when I say, “police brutality,” I am both at the beginning and the end.  I am grieving for a people who have been told that they were the wrong social color and therefore deserve to be stolen, enslaved, brutalized from head to toe, inside and outside, from birth to death, whose last breath was breathed under oppression and excessive use of force.

I am thinking about their supervised lives under the watchful eye of masters and overseers.  I am hiding from “paddy rollers” while looking for my “papers,” needed to travel outside of my slave owner’s property;

I am remembering slave catchers, the Underground Railroad and the tracks left on the backs of those caught.

I am thinking of Klansmen in white sheets who doubled as police officers, who were above the law and the African Americans brutalized in the name of it;

of crosses burned in yards because they are in the wrong neighborhood, because we don’t want you to be here, because you can’t be successful, because you think that you are better than us.

When I say, “police brutality, I am thinking of Ida B. Wells’ “Red Record,” of children, men and women lynched without judge or jury, who were blamed for crimes without due process of law and in order to provide social entertainment.

When I say, “police brutality,” I see bodies swinging, strange fruit cut down, canned, jarred limbs sold, bodies set on fire and then flashed with photography, placed on postcards and sent to relatives.

When I say, “police brutality,” I am thinking of the human brutality from slave ship to police stop.  There are so many names between then and now.  There is so much to account for.  I cannot tell it all.

But, know that when I say, “police brutality,” I am saying so much more than you could ever hear– unless of course you said it too.