Are the incidents of the police caught on camera committing one brutal, atrocious act after another aberrations or are they merely a small sample of even more occurrences that are never recorded? We like to believe it’s the former.
But the reckless disregard for human life by police officers, especially when that living being is an unarmed Black man, is happening with such frequency that it’s increasingly difficult to counter what many feel are the actions of angry white cops with racism in their hearts and malice on their minds.
Memories of the tragic chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the uncalled for gunning down of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, were still a part of public outrage when suddenly—over the past 10 days or so—we have Eric Harris being shot and killed by a reserve deputy in Tulsa, Okla. And the circumstances of his death, the way he was chased, apprehended, shot and given no medical attention, are aspects of what happened to Garner and Brown.
Two days later, April 4, in North Charleston, S.C., Walter Scott faced a similar fate during an encounter with a white police officer after a traffic stop. His funeral was hardly over when the video was released of Harris running from the police, pinned to the ground with a cop’s knee pressing his head to the pavement. Like Garner, he said that he couldn’t breathe.
With each senseless act of violence by law enforcement officers, with each loss of a precious life that in too many instances could have been avoided because the victims were unarmed and presented no danger, the breath is knocked out of the Black community.
We are finding it harder and harder to breathe, harder and harder to accept the daily body count of our young men, harder and harder to set aside the notion that a deadly, palpable fear exists among white police in this country. It is troubling enough to discover the malignant, racist chatter between the officers via their emails and other forms of communication, and even more distressing when the terrible things they say are converted to action—an action that is contradictory to their roles of protecting the community.
Even as we compose this lament, we know that somewhere in the nation, another Black man, unarmed, hoping to make it home safely to his family and loved ones, will be accosted by a white officer, stopped and frisked, for no apparent reason other than he “looked suspicious.”
There will be teardrops to shed, more helplessness against an impregnable “blue violence,” a terror that once upon a time visited Black Americans draped in white. Today, sadly, we are not safe from our so-called protectors. And if the demonstrators are again in the streets, then they have every right to be—and not until we have a critical mass again on the move will there be any surcease in the menace from the new pattyrollers.
Thankfully, the Justice Department is moving to curb some of the wanton misconduct of police agencies across the nation, with some 20 of them currently under investigation and facing consent decrees. But it’s not enough for the constraints of the federal government, particularly at a time when there is an apparent resurgence of state’s rights. Local agencies, the municipal governments, have to step in and do their part, particularly when it comes to meting out punishment for police tried and convicted of abuse and misconduct.
All of this is wishful thinking, but that may the only thing a seemingly powerless people have when confronted by the brute force of men in blue with violence on their minds.