“It is in the humble opinion of this narrator that this is not just ‘something that happened.’
This cannot be ‘one of those things’... This, please, cannot be that.”
I have come back to this essay again and again.
It’s gone through about four different rewrites and has yet to find its defining denouement.
Maybe that’s more about me than anything else.
There are four different versions in my queue with titles diminishing in wit as they go on, the humor a defense crashing and burning as time passed.
“Fear of a Black Habit”
“Do You Know How Hard It Is To Kill Someone? Like, Seriously?”
“Why You Don’t Care About Police Brutality?”
“The End of Death”
All dramatic, with senselessness inspiring such cynical theatrics.
The moments deserved the gravity.
And lo, here we are again.
So distracted were we by this unraveling yarn ball of lunacy that audaciously calls itself a president and his staff that we weren’t really paying attention to the fact that black folk keep getting gunned down in the street.
In fact, it was on this president’s agenda to further police organizations towards that goal. Obviously, the bill isn’t called the “Empower Militarized Goons to Mow Down Minorities With Impunity Bill,” but any effort to roll back reform efforts at the organizational level is an implication of complicity in these criminal acts, and a tacit blessing of horrific brutality, as long as it falls under the broad purview of law and order.
It’s the implication.
So, here we are again.
Another black boy dead.
Posing no threat.
Actually, exiting the scene.
And, still, a man raised his rifle and fired.
There were gunshots somewhere. They must have come from the darkness inside that car. That darkness must be snuffed. “Maybe I’ll get a fucking medal,” he must have thought to himself.
Or perhaps he didn’t think.
Perhaps, as I have witnessed, that depersonalization of those darker than he has led him to instinctively be inspired to snuff out the danger, or at least the perception of it. The act was given no more thought than someone swatting a mosquito from the skin.
And so now, tell me this isn’t just something that happens.
And so now, Jordan Edwards now lays in repose.
Another well-loved black body and mind, dead in a car seat, executed by a blue-suited soldier fighting a war we can barely scratch the surface of with our myriad think pieces.
Which brings me to my next question.
Do you know how hard it is to kill someone?
Study after study after study have shown that it is incredibly difficult for a person to muster up the gumption to kill another human being at close range, even if there is a perception of imminent danger.
The person under threat will usually resort to posturing maneuvers before he or she will resort to deadly force.
This has been shown across the board, regardless of context.
Yet it is remarkably easy for the police to gun down black men, no matter the age, no matter the size.
The same restraint and patience that they demonstrate towards whites who are committing the same crime is completely abandoned in the face of even a hypothetical black threat.
In the case of Terence Crutcher, he was merely moving, merely responding, merely existing, and this was enough for Betty Shelby to raise her gun and execute him. For the grave crime of his car being broken down in the middle of the road. The police have claimed he was high, because.
Now, we tend to throw a lot of hyperbole around when we get into the emotional aftermath of events such as these.
But the words executed, assassinated, and murdered are appropriate because that is what happened. Because of a perceived threat, Alton Sterling was murdered in cold blood by two men who share the same feelings about black bodies as a good amount of America does.
Simply put, they hate them.
They hate blackness. They perceive it as both intellectually inferior and physically superior. They assume that the black mind is too stupid to understand orders but that same black body is strong enough to move mountains and stop bullets.
You see this in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year old who was gunned down without any warning within seconds of a police car pulling up.
Because the black body is a threat even as it is fading into the distance."
And again, in the case of Levar Jones, a man who was pulled over for a seatbelt violation and shot three times as he was following orders, reaching into his glove compartment for his license and registration. He lived, but he must do so with the knowledge that his very motion ― his very being ― was a threat to someone.
Walter Scott was not so lucky. He was shot to death as he was running away from an officer. An officer who stood calmly, aimed precisely, and murdered him.
That was not the case with Philando Castile, who literally did everything right and was still shot to death while his baby sat behind him screaming, his wife broadcasting a murder and its aftermath live on Facebook. The officers comforted the murderer and handcuffed the widow.
And now, Jordan Edwards. Driving away. A passenger. Unarmed. Dead.
Because the black body is a threat even as it is fading into the distance. Because it is loathed. Should it present any independent agency, that is, to act like it is free, it must be reminded that it is not.
Bullets, batons, battery, and a history of injustices in the name of maintaining the status quo back up the notion that to be black is to already be dead in the eyes of your homeland. America is where you can lie bleeding out in the street for four hours in the midday sun, like Michael Brown was, baking.
So I ask you, America: please, from this bastion of liberal centered firestorms, please, please, please, please stop hating black people and black bodies.
Please stop blaming black people and black bodies because you’re poor. Their blackness is not the root of your poverty. Shame on you for being so ignorant as to think oppressed people are stealing from your pocket. Shame on you for buying into Caucasian propaganda as you are being fleeced by people who look just like you.
Please stop finding new, creative ways to legislate the destruction of black communities. If you cannot welcome black business into the primary economy, then you have no right to be administering your cruel laws, designed to break the black family, the black spirit, the black body.
Please stop normalizing the language of oppression (them, those, they). Cease with your use of the words “thug” and “gangster” and criminal when they do not apply. Stop with your endless recitations of rap sheets to justify atrocity visited on blackness.
Please stop propagating modern incarnations of the lynching spectacles of the old times, these videotaped atrocities that we trade like candy at the lunch table. This only serves to desensitize us to violence against blackness. When we finally feel nothing, we will lose our ability to empathize and, therefore, incite change.
I have often wondered, as I wandered the halls of police academies in the service of attempting to change these institutionalized mentalities, as I saw the dummies for weapons training that were dark, as I saw the target practice sheets that were vague black faces under hoods, if this is something that could be trained, the idea of black as human.
Or does that run counter to the primary mission of law enforcement, which is, like any business, to justify their existence, to legitimize their funding?
If they stopped hating black people, stopped harassing them for fines they can’t afford so they end up in prisons designed to hold those bodies,how long would they last?
Is it possible to have a Police force that is populated by people whose instinctual reaction to blackness is not to snuff it out
Can blackness be bonded with those who offer nothing but bondage?
Can we stop training state-sanctioned executioners?
Which brings me back to my original inquiry, which, again, is please, pretty-fucking-please, with those flashing cherries on top, America, stop hating blackness, stop fearing black bodies, stop ending black lives.