There are times when I just sit and repeat the story of these unarmed black and brown bodies who were killed. I imagine I am telling it to a future generation
It plays out like this: Something happens and the teen says “call the cops!” But they are stopped. Teen comes to me and asks why. I tell Teen that we can’t be sure if the cop will see us as a victim or suspect. Teen insists his friend is a victim (of whatever) and that much is clear.
I have to tell Teen about the two Black men who were shot by a white man who claimed he was a victim. Turns out he was the perp. Police sat on this info for a year. Meanwhile the men were treated like criminals.
I have to tell Teen about Trayvon Martin who only wanted his skittles and iced tea. Who was followed by a rent-a-cop that was told to stay away. The Rent-a-cop followed Martin anyway and when Trayvon felt the need to defend himself against a stranger following him in the dark, the man shot him and got off because, Stand Your Ground. Trayvon wanted to be a pilot. Martin died.
About Eric Garner who stood outside selling cigarettes but was handled as if he was selling WMDs. They ignored his cries for air. They let him die when all they had to do was help him breathe. He had children, a wife, a family. Some will say he was breaking the law by selling the cigarettes but, I say that’s not a reason to kill. That’s not a reason to hold a man in a chokehold until all he can say is “I can’t breathe.”
About Sandra Bland who dared to be an outspoken Black woman and activist. She was “here to change history”. She was a sister, friend, mentor. She was a counselor, singer, daughter. She was pulled over by a state trooper, and arrested. Her crime? Being unemployed and caught up in Texas’ fundraising through traffic fines, tickets and court costs. She stood up for herself. She didn’t get violent, but she questioned authority. She was found dead in her cell.
About Stephon Clark who dared be in his backyard at night around the same time a neighbor called the cops because he heard from someone his car window was smashed. He didn’t hear the smash. Police muted their body cameras at least 16 times. Then, after they shot him, after Clark lay on the ground motionless, they didn’t render medical aid. Not right away. They waited because they thought he was playing dead. With his body full of holes, he was playing dead. Stephon didn’t have a weapon. He had a phone.
About Philando Castile, his name means lover. He was a nutrition assistant at a local elementary school. He often helped students pay for the lunches out of his own pocket. He was a lover. He had a 4-year old daughter and a girlfriend that loved him. He was shot in his car with his girlfriend and daughter (who was in the back seat), present. His girlfriend was able to capture the entire thing on her live stream. He had a registered gun but, that didn’t matter. He was black with a gun and that’s all that matter. And the cop who killed Philando? He was acquitted.
I tell Teen about Alton Sterling who sold CDs. The police showed up bc “someone” reported a gun. They wrestled him to the ground and shot him in the back. See, someone called the cops on Alton. It wasn’t the store owner – who let Alton sell CDs in the front of the store. It wasn’t people who knew him and called him, “Big A”. These people had no reason to fear him. It was a stranger, a homeless man who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, that called the cops. That man said Sterling had a gun and set in motion the events that almost always turn out the same way.
About Walter Scott. He had a broken tail light. He was unarmed and was shot in the back 5x as he tried to run (he was scared). The cops tried to frame him. They placed a taser next to him and said Scott tried to tase…the cops. The Teen asks me to stop but I can’t. Because they won’t stop. And these ppl must be remembered. So I go on.
Castile and Sterling’s murder just one day apart.
I tell Teen about Eric Harris in Tulsa (I’ll get back to Tulsa I say). He was unarmed and shot when a volunteer deputy confused his gun for a stun gun. Harris, in pain, said he couldn’t breathe. Cop said “f*ck your breathe”
Rumain Brisbon who placed his hand in his pocket for a pill bottle and died for it. Tamia Rice. He was a child being a child – playing in the park. But “someone” called the cops and when they arrived they executed him. No questions, no warnings, just bullets in a baby. He was playing with a toy gun. Then there’s Laquan McDonald. He saw cops and ran. They shot him. And then, after he was down, they kept shooting. Then they tried to cover it up. Michael Brown. Hands up. Don’t shoot. It’s what they tell you to do. It’s what he did. They shot him anyway. I tell Teen about Freddie Gray. He was in police custody and somehow, someway while in the police vehicle went unconscious. Some say he fell into a coma. In police custody. He died. And Terrance Crutcher. Lawd oh Terrance. He had car trouble. This time it was a woman cop. She approached and shot him after calling him a “bad dude”. She lied saying he reached in the car window but, it was up. She was acquitted
I told Teen remember Sean Bell. The cops shot at him 50x the morning of his wedding. He was leaving his bachelor party. They were acquitted
Saheed Vassell was shot 9x by cops in Brooklyn after new neighbors called the cops on him. He was acting erratically with a shower head in his hands. He had a mental illness. Teen wants me to stop. It’s too much. I say I haven’t even told you about McBride or King’s beating or Amadou Diallou or…or
Ok. I say. One more although he won’t be the last. Diante Yarber was in his car with friends at Walmart. They say he was in a stolen vehicle but, not according to the car owner. They sprayed over 20 bullets into the car. Full of people. I never got to tell the teen about Black Wall Street, about the execution of the Panthers, Operation Hope or Till. But I do tell the Teen: before you call the cops, make sure you or someone around you is in real danger. Because if not, their lives may be in real danger. //end