In my lifetime I have killed hundreds of roaches. It never bothered me. Those critters are beneath me so I never saw a problem with killing them or felt that I should face consequences when I did so. This is precisely what is happening with the Walter Scott case today. Walter Scott was killed by a policeman who fired eight shots at him as he was running away from the officer. It was all caught on camera. Still, the jury will not convict the murderer–who is White–because it bothers the hell out of some people to think that the life of a Black man is on par with a White man. To the White supremacist, killing a roach and killing a “nigger” are not too far different. That is what this trial is about.
At the core of the nation’s struggle between law enforcement and police reform is the issue of race. The issue is largely black and white, quite literally. With each police shooting race flares; routinely the broad cry of “racial reconciliation” surfaces in some form as a solution to the specific problem of policing. But the rift between black communities and law enforcement cannot be solved in that way. Racial reconciliation between blacks and whites–including largely white power structures like law enforcement– in America is simply not possible and time wasted. To “reconcile” means to make friendly again. Reconciliation requires us to have been friends, have a falling out and then get back together. In the American context, when were blacks and whites ever friends? If we are to make progress on the issue of race and ultimately police reform, we must scrap the quest for reconciliation and chart a completely new course.
Philando Castile was shot dead not long after Alton Sterling. I’m angry but not towards white people or the millions that will (predictably) justify murdering these two men. I’m angry because black people are not angry enough to make a change. Our anger is sufficient to vent on social media and perhaps protest, although deep down we know it won’t change a damn thing. But are we angry enough to sacrifice and radically alter our lives for freedom? Are we angry enough that every move we make and dollar we spend will be toward black power? If not, shut the hell up and go back to watching Hulu.
George Zimmerman’s gun auction should make clear what value America places on black life. It isn’t just that we don’t value it but that we place monetary value on ending it. This has been true for a long time. It was true in 1955 when Emmitt Till’s killers were paid $4,000 for telling their tale of cold-blooded murder to Look magazine just four months after their acquittal. That acquittal by an all-white jury took only 67 minutes; one juror even said, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.” George Zimmerman’s trial at least had the appearance of legitimacy but the aftermath is eerily similar and every bit as painful as the Emmitt Till ordeal. Zimmerman is set to make hundreds of thousands from the sell of the gun he used to kill Martin, much like Till’s killers were paid for their story. Different decades, similar results– that should terrify us enough to act.
The Democrats hosted their first candidate debate on October 13th and until today, I hadn’t watched it. Why? I sort of already knew the script. I could have told you that we’d hear about guns, commitment to LGBT rights, the middle class and perhaps “Black Lives” mixed in somewhere. That’s about what happened. The message I received was pretty straightforward: the only test acknowledged this cycle for securing black votes is the ability to recite a hashtag. After that, candidates need only return to the business of white affairs and they knew it.
I was excited to see the movie Selma when it came out. Popcorn in hand, I sat down and anxiously waited for the endless previews to conclude. The movie was brilliant. I was moved by the meticulous attention to detail and the powerful narratives of suffering and triumph. As I continued to watch, however, I became disturbed. Many of the themes and challenges portrayed in the movie were identical to those we wrestle with today.