I watched the video on Twitter of Terence Crutcher being shot.
I heard his shooter, officer Betty Shelby, call Crutcher a “bad guy.” I saw trolls on Twitter comment that Crutcher should not have been walking to his car with his hands up, though he was not armed.
What did we all learn from Crutcher’s death? That you can now add “fixing your broken down car” to the list of things you can get shot for while black.
“But wait,” you might say. “The justice system prevailed! The Tulsa Police Chief not only confirmed Crutcher didn’t have a gun inside his car, but also officer Shelby was arrested for manslaughter!”
You would be right. But then, I would have to break it to you that Shelby was released on bond 15 minutes after her arrival at Tulsa County Jail, and that she is currently on administrative leave, which is just fancy term for her receiving a paid vacation.
It is insulting if you think this is what justice looks like. Justice does not like an innocent black man, minding his own business, being stereotyped and being shot shortly thereafter. Justice is not Shelby or any of the other officers in her power-hungry squad shooting Crutcher for walking to his car for fear of their lives. Justice isn’t even Shelby getting arrested. Another black family lost a father to a senseless act of violence by police officers who are still living comfortably.
I’m tired of hearing, “It’s your fault if you run.”
Earlier this week, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled “in reference to Boston officer Jimmy Warren who wrongfully shot a black man in 2011 due to a vague criminal description, black men running from police should not be the cause of their death.”
Its decision to convict was heavily influenced by a 2014 American Civil Liberties Union report that found that African-Americans are disproportionately stopped by police in Boston. Ultimately, the court realized that black men fleeing from police in Boston is a reasonable response given the large amount of police brutality deaths.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling should echo in other states. Constantly seeing the deaths of black men publicized is extremely exhausting for one’s mental health.
According to an article by Huffington Post writers Liz Adetiba and Anna Almendrala, watching videos of police brutality deaths can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and even desensitization. Professor of psychology and sociology Roxane Silver even went as far as to advise people to cease watching police brutality videos for their mental health.
I partially agree with Silver. I agree that African-Americans should take a break from such videos for however long they need, but I also believe that total withdrawal from these videos causes ignorance.
And sure, ignorance is bliss, but we, African-Americans, do not get the luxury of experiencing bliss. We don’t get to pretend that everything is fine, because we will quickly be reminded by everyday media that we are always suspects – our skin color poses a threat to some white police officers as well as some white civilians.
I was reminded of this by an article my honors English teacher Jennifer Brewington had my class read, titled “Letter to My Son” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates’ article, originally published in The Atlantic in 2015, is a letter full of hopeless and defeatist tones but also blatant truth.
Coates aims to awaken white people from their naïve, Martin Luther King, Jr.-filled dream, telling them black people are still feeling the effects of oppression and white supremacy that began almost two centuries ago in America.
“In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage,” Coates said.
Instances of police brutality publicized on the news, personal experiences of demonization, the constant fear of losing loved ones to the streets that leads to calculated actions and acknowledgement of white supremacy at a young age all supports his thesis and feeling of hopelessness that he conveys to his optimistic son, who was devastated after learning that Michael Brown’s killer, Darren Wilson, would not be indicted.
Just like Coates’ son, I, too, early on in my interest of social justice and activism, was disappointed after many failed indictments. Failed indictments are normal, and, according to Coates, the number-one thing that black people can do is be conscious of that tragic fact.
“I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world,” Coates concluded.
However, consciousness isn’t enough for some who are willing to protest in the streets for change.
After the death of Keith Lamont Scott, a disabled black man, on Sept. 20 in North Carolina, riots ensued. I watched his daughter’s Facebook livestream, where she found out that her father was dead.
I heard Scott’s family yell obscene things at the officers, telling them that Scott was just reading a book. I saw the recently-released video recorded by Scott’s wife, which failed to show if Scott had the gun that police claimed was pointed at them. For that reason, I can’t confidently tell you that Scott was innocent.
What I can tell you is that the people are tired. What I can tell you is that the riots in Charlotte are no surprise to me.
I don’t advocate rioting. I don’t advocate destroying your own city and I would like to believe that most of the rioters aren’t truly a part of the Black Lives Matter movement. I would like to think that these rioters are people taking advantage of the sensitive situation at hand, but peaceful protesting by kneeling for the national anthem doesn’t seem to be working.
I hate to agree with the right- wing trolls, but where is our president? Where is the leadership that we obviously need? I never expected for Obama to fix America’s race problem, but when riots are happening, I expect to hear from him. I expect for him to not only scold the rioters, but also to condemn law enforcement, which ultimately caused these riots.
Until police brutality is addressed on a federal level in the form of laws that outline de-escalation tactics and punishments for police departments failing to comply, there will be no progress. Police brutality will continue to be a part of America’s legacy.