Life as a African-American/Black man. Life as a African-American/Black woman. A life that can quickly and violently be taken away.
Last night I finally broke down. My emotional shell just cracked and I started crying, something I don’t often do. I just reached a saturation point in my soul and couldn’t hold back the emotion anymore. The water just poured from my eyes. It was one of those messy Viola Davis cries too and with each sniffle, more tears flowed. I sat on the stairs leading up to our bedroom feeling like my life force was drained from my body. Eric tried to console me as any supportive spouse would, but when you’re in a mixed race relationship (Black & White), there’s not much they can say or do at that moment.
It was another death of a Black man at the hands of a White police officer.
Eric and I had just finished watching Becoming on Netflix and were channel surfing before turning in for the night. We settled on watching America’s Got Talent. I wasn’t really paying attention to the show until Archie Williams stepped out on stage. Williams was wrongfully convicted and spent 37 years in prison for the stabbing and rape of a white woman in Lousianna. As an innocent man in prison, he had to be strong to survive and he didn’t allow his mind to go to prison. He would watch the show and envisioned himself performing on the show as well. Listening to his story about how even with credible witnesses of his innocence, he was still convicted of this horrific crime. I call it White vengeance. So called justice fueled by racism rather than actual facts. Biased decision-making that has become convenient with deadly outcomes for those “Po” Black folks who lack resources to fight a wrongful conviction.
Yet last week, another Black man died under duress by the hands of three white police officers using excessive force to restrain a suspect. George Floyd is the name of the most recent casualty who was apparently being investigated for fraud. He wasn’t dangerous and nor did he have a weapon. Even as bystanders asked the police to get off of Floyd and as he was saying that he couldn’t breathe, the officer continued to forcibly press his knee into his neck.
We’ve also all now seen the viral footage of a White woman with her dog off-leash in an area in New York’s Central Park calling the police on a Black man (Christian Cooper) who was out “Birding” when he called her out on her shit by allowing her animal to roam in a protected area where you are required to leash your pet. She called the police on this “African American” man because she felt threatened. An accusation without merit and Cooper’s video recording clearly illustrated just that. The one recurring theme of situations such as this, is the privilege that some White people wield when they believe a Black person shouldn’t be in a certain neighborhood, a hotel lobby (also a guest), doing their job as a UPS driver, or when they are called out on their shit (behavior), they call the authorities. It even happened to Oregon State Representative Janelle Bynum in 2018 while she was going door to door talking to her constituents during a reelection campaign in the suburbs of Portland, Ore. This prompted Rep. Bynum to sponsor a bill making it possible to sue those individuals for racist or biased 911 calls.
I live in a bubble here in Portland, Ore. By that I mean, it is a liberal city in comparison to other parts of the state. Here I can easily navigate my way around the city with the fear of someone calling the police on me for being and doing my business. It is far from being a utopia. I too have been stopped by the police (profiled) because I supposedly fit the description of an apparent suspect. I wouldn’t feel as confident roaming the streets or in other areas of our state. Luckily my interactions with the police have been mostly positive, though occasionally frustrating. I know people in law enforcement and have the utmost respect for those who serve. That said, the history of (White) police and the Black community has been one filled with mistrust and excessive force. Being in a position of enforcement where you are expected to protect and serve everyone should never include exceptions or be a death sentence for members of the public.
Right now, life during a pandemic for Black people and other minorities is difficult enough without also having to endure the injustices and biases of some White people. In February, Armaud Arbery was executed by two white men, a father and son (George & Travis McMichael), while he was out jogging. They said that they thought he had just robbed a home under construction and decided to pursue Arbery. They assumed the worst of this young kid and it cost him his life. What makes things even more suspicious about this case is with the father, a retired police detective in the county, several investigators that were assigned to the case conveniently recused themselves, delaying the case even further. There were several other people that entered the home under construction but the McMichaels only confronted Arbery.
Back in March, police in Kentucky raided the apartment of a black Emergency Medical Technician mistaking the home for a drug den and killing 26-year old Breonna Taylor in the process. She and her boyfriend thought it was a break in and returned fire striking an officer. The boyfriend was arrested for attempted murder but was later released. The actual home of the drug den was 10 miles away. Another unnecessary death at the hands of law enforcement. A death that was irresponsible and completely preventable.
I don’t believe that all police (law enforcement) are racists, but I do believe the current systems that are in place make it easy for certain behaviors and racial bias to thrive. In Lawrenceburg, Tenn, Sabastian Arzadon, a white double murder suspect who was apprehended and given water before being taken into custody. There was no such courtesy given to George Floyd, only a knee in his neck. Granted this was in a different state with different officers, but the goal of apprehension is the same. So where do we place blame? There is no denying the fact that bias does exist in our law enforcement. And when you have a certain governmental figure saying things to further incite bias, that doesn’t help. Words have power. It’s time for White America to finally take notice of these things we Black Indigenous & People of Color have been experiencing for over 400 years. We are angry and rightfully so. We are tired of our community being mistreated and vilified because our skin color. Could my brother or sister be the next person killed?
If you claim to be “woke”, it’s really time for you to do something about it.