The recent headlines in the news of police brutality, police killings, the police in gas masks and military garb attacking American citizens protesting peacefully shocked some, but frankly this story is as old as America itself. It is the same story of implicit bias, black pain, disenfranchised communities and systemic racism. What this means is that most have forgotten true history and the rest think that the cries and pain of black people are fictitious. Nothing to see here!
Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer when he was stopped for walking in the middle of the street. Witnesses say Brown put his hands up and said “Don’t shoot” to the officer as he dumped more than a dozen rounds into his body. The police, however, have remained quiet on Wilson’s version of events, choosing instead to make the victim the focus by releasing grainy video footage of the teen allegedly robbing a store keeper over a pack of pilfered cigars. This is a familiar theme portrayed in the name of justice; blaming of the victim in nearly every such situation at the hands of the law.
This summer there has been weekly brutality by the police and several murders under cover of law. Yet, they ask why such community outrage. For example, the mayor and police chief of tiny Ferguson say there is no problem here – our darkies are happy and love living here. We’ve heard this before as far back as slavery and segregation! In other words, it is just contempt and how they devalued the lives of its black citizens. Instead of trust and healing, the streets of Ferguson were full of tear gas and militarized police. In the place of justice, there is only anger, reminiscent of scenes we have seen before.
Judith Browne Dianis, a veteran civil rights attorney, put it this way:
“Fifty-nine years ago last week, 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered for allegedly “whistling” at a white woman. His death and open-casket funeral revealing the boy’s brutalized body caused a national outcry, demonstrating how African Americans were viewed as less than human in many parts of our society, and that those who kill them would likely go unpunished. But the killings of Emmett Till and those like him, for infractions small or imagined, didn’t start 59 years ago. These killings and the divide they illustrate are rooted in 400 years of oppression.
In her article, she added and said, “Michael Brown is now part of a tragic legacy, a member of a group that includes Till. You’ll also find Trayvon Martin there, killed last year by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman who stalked him as he walked home. You’ll find New Yorker Eric Garner, choked to death by police last month for asking why he was being harassed. There’s John Crawford, killed by police the same week as Brown for holding an air rifle — essentially a toy gun — in an Ohio Wal-Mart. Ezell Ford’s death this month either came from resisting arrest or lying face down in the street, depending on whether you believe the Los Angeles police or Ford’s mother.
A 2012 study revealed that police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extra-judicially killed at least 313 African Americans that year alone. This means a black person was killed at the hands of a “security” officer every 28 hours. But these dire fates are not inevitable. They are the result of generations of suppression and inequality, devaluing the lives of African Americans to the point where we invest little in economic equality, education and the other types of policies that create opportunity in other parts of America.”
The police are paid to protect and serve all people, yet for too many communities of color, police are an occupying force using suppression-only tactics, indicting residents by the color of their skin, not differentiating between them and the criminal element they seek. The police domination of black communities reminds me of Hitler’s Gestapo and storm troopers that occupy not protect and serve.
The question before us is whether or not we will continue to accept this brutal oppression? Four hundred years of this has lasted far too long, and it’s time to say enough is enough! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…
Dick Gregory Speaks