A couple of days ago, the news came out that Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide.
The very first time I saw the video and the reaction that followed, I knew that the police officers in the video would be crucified by the public. And with the feeling of glee about the findings, I also felt a huge void that I’ve been feeling for such a long time when it comes to every unnecessary death that has occurred during my life on Earth as well as before my existence.
See, the void consisted of two things: the societal views of black men and the constant acquittals that occur when murder cases are tried in a court of law.
For when I think of the beginning of these patterns, I think of Emmett Till.
Emmett Till was the very first case I’ve heard of that was infused with racial implications and at the tender age of 9-10, I was sure that his killers were locked away. BUT I found out they were acquitted and I was left to sit with myself and look at my skin – a skin we both shared, a skin color that was a factor to his death. Perhaps, I was too young to understand but just knowing there was something really wrong was enough for me to get my mind going.
Then more cases occurred.
There was Amadou Diallo. Mr. Diallo was fired upon a total of 41 times and was killed by four officers. His killers were later acquitted.
Then Ramarley Graham, who was shot and killed in his grandmother’s bathroom after being suspected of drug possession and was unarmed. His killer, Officer Richard Haste who entered the house without a warrant was acquitted.
Then there was Sean Bell, an unarmed man who was attending his bachelor party was shot and killed on the morning of his wedding (shot at a total of fifty times). Three of the five officers were acquitted.
Then there was DJ Henry, a 20 year old college football player who was killed by police officer Aaron Hess. Hess shot through Henry’s windshield as he drove away from a bar. His case has further complications as police officers are being currently being exposed in falsifying the story as well as the highest ranking officer being arrested for federal child porn (falsified reports on office computers).
Sadly, the list continues.
Criminalize the Victim
“These men were all thugs, these men were all criminals, and these men were all participating in illegal activity”. That’s the argument that the defense will use.
The first step is to dehumanize an individual; you must defame their character to be able to explain why their death benefits the community. Society has been addressing the dehumanization of the black man for years and with the alarming statistics of blacks in the prison system (largest race behind bars) – the numbers are stacked AGAINST the black community.
- Emmett Till was a participating in prohibited activities
- Amadou Diallo was a suspected rapist who pulled out a wallet which was thought to be a gun
- Ramarley Graham was suspected of drug dealing and “chatter on the radio suspected him of having a gun”
- Sean Bell’s friend was to believe to be reaching for a gun and Bell was intoxicated
- DJ Henry was driving away, police officer Hess believed he was aiming his car at him
- Eric Garner had a past record and was believed to be selling illegal cigarettes
The Aggressor(s) background
The second step is glorifying the aggressor’s background. How do you appeal to the court system? Easy, you become opposite of the victim. It’s quite difficult to rule it an intentional death when one’s death is the result of a police officer’s doing. Having a badge is like having the golden ticket; you’re already deemed a protector of the community. However, if you’re an individual like George Zimmerman or Michael Dunn or Theodore Wafer, the fear component comes into play.
- GZ: Trayvon Martin was profiled and believed to be a robber, GZ feared for his neighborhood. After, Martin confronted him GZ feared that Martin was going to kill him (although unarmed) and shot him.
- Michael Dunn: Dunn was parked right beside Jordan Davis’ car filled with friends who were playing rap music. Dunn asked to turn it down in which they did not, Dunn believed Davis’ friend was reaching for a gun and out of fear shot into the car
- Theodore Wafer: Renisha McBride crashed her car (driving under the influence), she knocked on the door of Theodore Wafer’s. Mr. Wafer believed his house was going to be broken into- out of fear he opened his front door and shot McBride in the face.
The Truth to Change
Following the court proceedings and the verdict, individuals are left in stupor. Yet, there is a pattern that occurs after many of these events transpire. Today, many are debating on what needs to change in police tactics. Yet, the question one should be asking is what needs to change within the scope of one’s judgment.
Thus, the change in policies in police departments is a start but it also takes the village. A village that must not judge one for their past, a village that has to stop confusing fear with ignorance, a village that must accept diversity.
Martin Luther King Jr once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right”.
Somewhere our consciences fell into darkness.
History reveals who we are. And history only repeats itself when there are no changes. It’s important we change our way of thinking which will be the only way to change our behaviors.