July 12, 2016 by McDowski
It seems like hardly a few weeks go by before we hear of yet another white officer killing yet another black man on the streets. Naturally, these incidents spark international debate over the actions of the police, the racism of law enforcement, and the inevitable defense of the police from those who love pointing out “black-on-black” crime. How black-on-black crime is relevant to white cops shooting black people is rarely clarified. Sure, black-on-black crime is a problem, but that isn’t the point here.
I think the point is that these incidents aren’t simply about crime in general. This isn’t gang related, or a fight between equals. If you and I are tenth-graders in high school, and we get into a fight on the playground, it is what it is; a fight between two tenth-graders. Change that scenario and make one of the two, say, a sixth-grader, and things change considerably. It’s no longer a case of two kids getting into a fight; it is now an older kid bullying a younger one.
Law enforcement officers are authorized to use lethal force when necessary. They are the only group who explicitly have that authority. That gives them a position of significant power. This power needs to be wielded carefully.
Many of the instances over the last couple of years involve situations where the officer(s) were under no immediate threat. Eric Garner was one man against multiple officers, and clearly none of those officers was in any kind of danger from him, yet they saw fit to choke him onto the ground and ignore his pleas of, “I can’t breathe,” until it was too late. Why? Because he was selling some fucking loose cigarettes? I would argue that it wasn’t even worthy of the cops’ attention, let alone their aggressive reaction.
Castille was shot multiple times while trying to reach for his wallet; even if you argue that the officer confused the gesture for him reaching for his gun, it still doesn’t excuse it. You don’t shoot a guy 4–5 times because there is a possibility that he might be reaching for a gun. Maybe.
Sterling was shot multiple times after being forcibly tackled onto the floor. Sure, he apparently had a gun on him. But he had two officers literally on him, both of who look like they’re pretty strong; they couldn’t subdue him enough to ensure their safety, and had to resort to shooting him? Were they afraid that he had superhuman strength and would overpower both of them?
There was that other incident, I can’t remember the victim’s name. The guy was admittedly carrying a knife, but was surrounded by several officers (6 or 7 if I recall) who proceeded to shoot him a dozen times. Why? In what world does a solitary knife wielding man pose a realistic threat to half a dozen armed police officers?
There are, of course, plenty of incidents like these. Why are white police officers predisposed to acting with such aggression, and pretend like their lives are on the line, when facing a black man? Would they have reacted the same way in the above situations had Garner, Castille and Sterling been white?
I, and a lot of other people, would argue that the answer is, “No.” The cops would not have acted with such aggression/paranoia had they been white instead of black.
And that is why this is a problem.