I am against the police brutality that has killed Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and so many others who haven’t gotten their names in the news, and I 100% think that it is a race issue. People who don’t think that it is about race or, even worse, who think the police officers were justified, hold views that I simply cannot understand no matter how hard I try.
In 1919 a twelve-year-old boy was brutally murdered by grown men who threw rocks at him all because he was swimming on the “white side” of the beach in Chicago. These men were not charged because they had the “right to protect their beach” and most white people at the time believed that if they swam in the same water as a black person they would become black. It was also widely believed that black men were sex addicts and that white women were stupid, this meant that black men would either rape white women or outsmart them into bed. This belief led to Emmet Till being beat for six hours before being shot and dumped into a river by two men (1955) who were told that he threatened to rape one of their wives. Later, Till’s cousins revealed that they had dared him to whistle at the woman, Caroline Bryant, who was working at the store she and her husband, Roy Bryant, owned. Emmett Till was THIRTEEN at the time of his murder… he didn’t even have the luxury of a trial. The two men, however, were put on trial after the body was found. For days leading up to the find, Roy Bryant and his brother-in-law J.W. Milam had been bragging to anyone who would listen that they killed Till and, when it went to trial, they were found innocent even with the overwhelming amount of evidence. Then, they were paid $125 each (approximately $3,000 in today’s money) for an interview in which they not only admitted that they were guilty, but they actually recounted exactly how the murder happened. Also, during World War II white soldiers refused African American blood transfusions because they believed that they would become black. As a result, the US created two separate blood banks. **side note: it’s 2014 and if you are a gay man and have ever been sexually active, you are not allowed to donate blood due to the AIDS epidemic, even though straight people also get AIDS**
Historically, people have followed these myths that led to panic and fear when facing people of darker skin, and we cannot deny these past injustices, but we also need to stop pretending that there are no injustices going on right now. A lot of people need to wake the hell up. Do you really think that if a little white boy was playing alone with a BB gun that the police would have shot him to death within five seconds of arriving on the scene? What about if a white man was in the middle of a Wal-Mart holding a toy gun that was FOR SALE in said Wal-Mart? Would someone have called the police saying that he “looked suspicious”? Would the police have shot him without trying to find a way around using lethal force? And, putting aside the police and focusing on the public in general, if a 17 year old white man was walking down the street of a gated community wearing a hood in the rain, would the neighborhood patrol asshole had stalked him and eventually shot him to death (even though the police told him to mind his own business)? Even if you walk around preaching about how wonderful the world is now that no one cares about race and that racism is over because black people can go to school with us and can pick any seat on the bus that they want, I really don’t think you can say that these situations would have ended the same way for young white men. In fact, there are several instances where it would have made more sense for police to shoot and kill someone, but they were brought into custody alive instead. For example: James Holmes (Aurora movie theatre shooting that killed twelve people and injured nearly 60 others), Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (one of the two brothers involved in the Boston Marathon Bombing which killed 5 people and injured about 280 others; he was taken in to custody alive following a day long manhunt in which 16 police officers were shot), and T.J. Lane (Chardon Ohio school shooting in 2012 which killed three people and injured three others; he was also taken into custody alive after escaping from prison in September of this year).
This is our past, guys, and it didn’t happen that long ago. In my home state (a NORTHERN state), schools weren’t desegregated until the 1970’s. You might be wondering why they were segregated in the first place. Were white people really so afraid of “becoming black” that they didn’t want their children in the same room with African American children? No, the reason for segregating schools, and for keeping them segregated even when the law was beginning to get involved, was much worse. Though there were a lot of people that just didn’t want their kids around black kids, the schools themselves claimed that they would have to “dumb down” their curriculum. They actually thought that the color of your skin dictates your intelligence. A interesting story to tell when this comes up is that of James Meredith, the first African American to enroll and graduate from the University of Mississippi. The president of the university was afraid that if Meredith enrolled they would have to change their requirements because, you know, black people are so stupid that they could not possibly keep up. *eye-roll.* Well, Meredith accepted the challenge and they accepted him, believing that if he failed they would never have to allow another black person to study there again. While he was attending class, he was separated from the other kids by curtains or room dividers. This meant that he was unable to see the board or the teacher. Even with these obstacles thrown at him, Meredith graduated in 1962 with a four year degree after only two years. If you think this kind of racism only existed in the 60’s, by the way, this story was taught to me by my history professor who was at the University of Mississippi in 1997 at the same time that Meredith was back to give a speech and hand over some important Civil Rights Movement documents (including letters from Dr. King himself). When my white, male professor showed up to hear the speech, he was greeted by a sea of white hoods and masks… ten-thousand KKK members turned up for this speech just seventeen short years ago.
Anyway, back to the desegregation of schools in my state, which was completed in the 1970’s. My dad was born in 1966 and my mom in 1969. Not my grandparents, not my great-grandparents, not a generation of people who are long gone from the Earth… my parents, who are both in their 40’s now, were born just before desegregation of schools. African Americans were technically given the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870, but they weren’t actually able to exercise this right (because of various voting restrictions) until 1965. That’s almost ONE-HUNDRED YEARS later and only about 50 years ago. It’s insane to me that people say things like “we live in a post-racial society” when these things were only happening within a life-time ago. My father’s mom still feels the need to comment about my cousin’s black boyfriend even though she has a biracial son now. We actually have a child of “color” (or whatever my grandma would say) in our family, and she still remarks about black people in a negative way. My grandma grew up with a dad who would close his entire restaurant/bar if an interracial couple came in because it was illegal to deny them service. She grew up in an era that allowed these crazy myths about black people to circulate as if they were proven facts, and on an unrelated note, she grew up during a time where it was a “proven fact” that cigarettes were good for you. Obviously, these “facts” were not rooted in even a centimeter of science or truth, but the majority of the public believed them and those people are still alive today. To say that we live in a society that doesn’t see race, let alone one in which no one still holds false stereotypical fears of black people is a complete and utter falsity.
Alright, let’s get into some specifics now. The four young men (who I firmly believe to be victims of police brutality) I’ve mentioned in this post did not deserve to die and, now that I’ve given you some historical background, I will now explain each murder in more detail. Having a toy gun isn’t against the law, so that makes the John Crawford and Tamir Rice cases irrelevant to people who claim that these officers have all been justified in their actions to shoot first and ask later. There is also the sheer fact that John Crawford was carrying a product that was being sold in the store that he was in and that Tarmir Rice was shot within five seconds of the police pulling up, not to mention that the officer who shot Tamir Rice (Timothy Loehmann) had been fired by his previous police force in Independence, Ohio because they felt that he was emotionally unstable and had a “lack of maturity,” along with an “inability to perform basic functions as instructed.”
A great deal of people claim that in cases like Michael Brown and Eric Garner the officer(s) feared for their lives. First of all, do you honestly want police officers who are supposed to protect you to be spooked this easily? Especially when they have the ability to call for backup? I mean Daren Wilson had to get out of his car and chase down Brown who was running away from him (as was his friend, Dorian Johnson), which most of the witnesses have said was because Wilson grabbed him and attempted to pull him into the car before threatening to shoot him. If you were really that afraid, why would you have gotten out of your car without first calling for back up? Something I find kind of humorous is that people have heard that Michael Brown was 6’4 and use that as the reason that the officer must have been so fearful of him, but you know who else is 6’4? Officer Wilson. The man who shot and killed Michael Brown was the same height as him and he was both trained and armed, while Brown was not. It really doesn’t seem like you need to know anything else about what happened, but I’ll give you more info just for shits and giggles. Both autopsies showed that the wounds Michael Brown sustained were consistent with the witnesses’ story that he was putting his hands up to surrender; he was shot six times. The people who are angry about protests following Michael Brown’s death and the eventual grand jury decision in Ferguson, bring up various factors including the stolen cigar story (which has still never been confirmed as Michael Brown and there is still a lot of doubt surrounding the fact that Officer Wilson had even heard about it before this situation unfolded) and that he had marijuana in his system (400% irrelevant and a complete character assassination attempt brought to you by the American moral compass geniuses at Fox News *heavy sarcasm*).
Even given what I’ve told you here, I can still see that there is some doubt about what exactly occurred on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri, but there is a case where there is no such doubt. Eric Garner, for example. There is no doubt in this situation because it was captured on video and, surprise, surprise, the only person indicted in the incident was the man who filmed it. On July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, police approached Garner about the alleged illegal sale of cigarettes. The video clearly shows six officers wrestle him to the ground after a little bit of resistance (mostly him saying that they have no reason to arrest him) and one officer uses an illegal chokehold to kill him, and it’s all on camera. The officer who actually killed Garner, Daniel Pantaleo, was involved in two civil rights lawsuits last year (in one of the cases he ordered two black men to strip naked for a search). It took six white men to take down Eric Garner. Six. And he says, “I can’t breathe” as loudly as he can muster out ELEVEN times before his death. I think it’s worth it to watch this segment from The Daily Show, mostly because Jon Stewart is a God. I would like to reiterate that the man who recorded this video of Eric Garner’s death is the ONLY person who was charged at all.
This may or may not be shocking to some of you, but please keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that the officer(s) involved in Garner’s death (or Michael Brown’s) went through a trial and were found innocent of the crime they committed… they never had to go to an actual trial, the Grand Jury’s job is to say, in layman’s terms, “there isn’t enough evidence for this to go to trial” or “there is some evidence, so this will go to trial.” In the US, it’s actually extremely rare that a Grand Jury decides not to indict someone. According the Bureau of Justice Statistics, out of 162,000 federal cases that were prosecuted in 2010 (the most recent year we have stats for), there were only eleven cases in which grand juries declined to indict. Yet in both cases of police brutality against black men, grand juries (made up of almost all white people and prosecuted by the people who work closely with the police every single day, instead of by a federal prosecutor which is what should have happened, in my opinion) decided that there wasn’t enough evidence, even in a case where you can see the murder with your own eyes. If this isn’t already outrageous to you, there is also the fact that in Michael Brown’s case the assistant prosecutor, explained statute 563.046, which stated that an officer has the right to shoot a suspect just because they run, and then handed out copies for them to look over on their own. The problem is that this law had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1985. The exact section that was ruled unconstitutional says, “A police officer is justified in the use of such physical force as he or she reasonably believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or to prevent the escape from custody.” It wasn’t just recalled, it was ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL. But it did exactly what Wilson’s defense wanted to do, which was to take away all doubt that it was actually police brutality and if they prove to you that there’s a law on the book giving him the legal right to shoot anyone who flees from arrest, you don’t need to even begin to prove that he was acting in self-defense. One last tidbit of information that you should consider looking into is that after the death of Michael Brown, Officer Wilson was allowed to clean off and bag his own gun before investigation began.
Okay, I’ll end this post here because it’s already so long. Please feel free to comment your opinions as long as you are going to be respectful about it. I’ve seen a number of posts on tumblr, twitter, and Facebook that I felt were extremely racist and disrespectful to all African American people, if anything of that nature is posted on my blog it will be deleted and I will not even bother to respond. Again, I am open to healthy, respectful debate. Thanks for reading!