John Crawford in Ohio. Mike Brown in Missouri. They were both unarmed. Have the police declared war against Black men?
Michael Brown, 18, a recent high-school graduate who was to begin college today, was found guilty of one crime this past weekend: walking while Black.
And when news broke Saturday afternoon that the unarmed teen was gunned down by police on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, I was engulfed with a sense impotent rage before I even knew his name.
There were no tears this time as there were for Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Jonathan Ferrell, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Wendell Allen, Eric Garner, and too many other innocent Black lives that were snatched away by people who swore oaths to keep them safe.
The chilling numbness that enveloped me when I read the news of John Crawford, who was gunned down by Ohio police in Walmart mere days before Brown, did not come.
The anger—hot, hard, fast—intensified until the words “Fuck the police” burst free. That guttural call-to-arms, which has seared the Hip-Hop generation’s consciousness since N.W.A. put our collective frustration into words, found a home amid the cacophony of rage building on social media and the streets of Ferguson where a community unchained refused to be silenced, even as police tanks and dogs tried their best to intimidate them.
Brown, affectionately known as “Mike Mike” to his friends, was killed within days of Theodore Wafer being found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Renisha McBride. That momentary reprieve from the relentless assault against Black humanity was swiftly shattered, these brutal deaths serving as a stark reminder that freedom for Black people in this country, the ability to navigate the world as autonomous human beings, is merely an illusion.
For those who would call that statement hyperbolic: When was the last time that an unarmed White person was gunned down by the police? When was the last time a White teen was left to rot like strange fruit, face down in the middle of the street for four hours, his blood pooled beneath him?
We exist in a time where swine-flu-infected police officers carry out acts of domestic terrorism within the Black community. They kill with impunity, existing solely to protect and serve Whiteness.
They are not here for us and they never were.
If this were not true, a Black person wouldn’t be killed every 28 hours in this country by law enforcement. They wouldn’t be too busy lynching our children to protect them or too busy criminalizing them on sight to really see them.
This is war. And where there is war, there can be no peace.
While President Obama continues to militarily and financially support Israel’s sadistic assault on Palestinian children, our own children are gunned down on the streets of Florida and Chicago and Ferguson and New Orleans. The battlefield was drawn at this country’s inception and we are forced to tip-toe around minefields, hoping they don’t blow up in our faces.
So, what then should we do? Plead with law enforcement? Beg them to grant us humanity?
In his memoir, Callus on My Soul, activist and comedian Dick Gregory discussed the scourge of police brutality in Black America:
“The relationship between Black folks and many White cops in this country is so far out of hand, and at some point we Black folks have to start taking some of that blame. We let police brutality run rampant through our community. There are thousands of Black police officers across this country. When have you ever read in the paper that a Black cop handcuffed a White person and shot them in the back of the head? … They don’t mess with White folks because they know that White folks won’t tolerate it, plain and simple. When we Black folks decide that we are not going to tolerate police brutality, then it will stop. There’s something wrong with a people who have more fear for their enemy than they have love for their children. We have to understand and say to America and the police that enough is enough.”
Despite former News 12 reporter Sean Bergin’s ridiculously racist assertion that the absence of Black fathers breeds anti-cop sentiment, Black Americans know that it is our hot blood, fertilizing the pavements of hoods and subway platforms and gated communities around the country, causing bitter disgust to bloom all year ’round.
Because every killing season the victims are Black.
In her 2010 poem, “My Son Runs In Riots,” Christy Namee Eriksen wrote of a boy who:
met men with gray hearts and silver badges
and he has
bullets in his back,
bullets in his front,
he has 56 baton blows, six kicks in his ribs and
when you watch the video
it’s tough to tell whose son it is.
It’s tough to tell whose son it is.
Sometimes at night, when my three sons are asleep, I run my fingers through their soft curls, and touch their warm skin. Then I recoil as the horrific vision of bullets piercing their innocent bodies invades my thoughts. I picture them screaming, “Mommy!” and not being there to save them. So I hold them tighter and attempt to quell the paralyzing fear that comes with knowing that they will be viewed as potential threats to be neutralized before they are viewed as human beings to be respected. I trace their faces and wish that I can always hold their hands when they cross the street and that they can stay forever within the cocoon of my embrace.
But I cannot. They cannot.
And one day, I will have to tell them that we brought them into a world that they were never meant to survive.
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