Note: After I wrote this post, I thought long and hard about it and wrote this follow up – Listen. I wanted to delete this post, because it was a reaction, and not the way I usually write posts about current events or issues. If you were disappointed by this post, I get it.
A week and a half ago, I was just outside of San Francisco in my hotel’s fitness room- waiting for the prosecutor to come out and read the results of the Ferguson Grand Jury about Darren Wilson, the cop who shot and killed Michael Brown.
The kids were in the pool, I could see them through the glass. The TV’s in the hotel lobby were tuned to Monday Night Football. It was already late in Ferguson, and getting later and later. As I listened to Bob McCulloch drone on and on, congratulating himself, vilifying social media… it was clear that this was a three ring circus. Not justice. They gave people time to show up to protest. Made them wait, become frustrated. They were basically setting up the stage for there to be riots, because they knew the nation was watching.
Sure McCulloch claims it was because he wanted to release all the evidence- but there was no need to do it concurrently. Nobody was demanding that it would all be released at the same time.
And now, this. Eric Garner, killed by a police officer because of an illegal chokehold- a grand jury failed to indict the officer, even though there was actual video evidence to show that there was no resistance. Even though the coroner ruled it as homicide.
Our justice system is broken. It’s hopelessly in favor of those who already have power- whether it’s literal (the police) or societal (the wealthy and/or white). How is it that you can have actual video and not be able to bring a single charge against a police officer?
Don’t sit there and say this isn’t a racial issue- I’ve seen white friends/acquaintances try to say that it’s a class issue. But this is about race. You don’t hear about police officers shooting a white kid with a toy gun. You don’t hear about police officers shooting a young white man with his hands up, or shooting him after asking him to get his ID out during a traffic stop. You don’t hear about police officers forcibly cutting off the extensions of a white woman. You don’t hear about police officers using a choke hold on a white man for a crime that’s probably a misdemeanor.
Because it doesn’t happen like that.
My children are going to face racism. I’ll have to tell them about the subtle racism of someone saying that they’re well spoken, with the unspoken “for a brown kid.” Or someone turning them away because they don’t quite fit what they’re looking for. Or that they’ll likely be watched by security guards if they go into certain stores. But I probably won’t ever have to tell my boys how to act around police officers, out of fear that they might be shot.
The ugly truth is that nothing about this is new. Nothing about this is different. The only difference is that the US and the World are finally watching.
Don’t mistake this statement as me saying that all police officers are racist, or should be demonized. But I think we can recognize that positions with power don’t always attract the people who want to do better- they also attract bullies. (Same with the military) But when you have generations of cops training rookies to look out for certain behaviors from black people- it becomes societal.
All you have to do is look at the way that black men are described by police, with mythical strength (the same way society referred to black slaves, to justify using them for labor) and being animals/demons (Darren Wilson even referred to Michael Brown as both a demon and “it”). It’s the sort of garbage that you only believe when someone teaches it to you. No child wakes up thinking that another person isn’t a person.
I don’t know how to fix things. My fear is that with officers wearing cameras, you’ll just get footage like Eric Garner’s death- where one officer misbehaves and everyone else just stands and watches. I just know that it’s time to stop pretending that we live in a post-racial world.
Because we aren’t there yet. Not by a long shot.