Last month I received a picture via text from my grandson, in which a state police officer was searching his car. He was driving from Dallas to Peoria alone and was stopped around Lincoln, IL. When I spoke to him later and asked what he was stopped for, he simply replied driving while being black. The officer claimed he stopped him because he observed him weaving. It was 10 am in the morning, he wasn’t speeding and did not receive a ticket.
When does one have to submit to having your car searched, because the officer says you were weaving? When you are a young black man in America, and your goal is to stay alive and get home safely. Like millions of African-American men, he chose to endure the humiliation of being stopped, questioned and searched simply because of the melanin in his skin.
My oldest brother and his wife have an affinity for luxury cars. They work hard and can afford them. However, after being stopped too many times while driving his Jaguar, they began driving SUV’s instead to draw less attention from the Chicago police.
In an article by Ryllie Danylko of the Cleveland.com, he writes about the police policy “To Shoot to Kill.” It was the Cleveland Police who shot and killed a 12-year-old child playing with a toy gun, named Tamir Rice. Their response to his death was, they don’t shoot to maim. If there is a threat, apparently even a perceived one, that requires lethal force, they shoot to kill.
The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder found that systemic deficiencies and practices were held by the Cleveland Police Dept; which included insufficient accountability and inadequate community engagement. The fifty-eight-page report spoke of rogue officers pulling their guns on suspects without justifiable cause, beating defenseless suspects already handcuffed and hiding their actions by writing inaccurate reports. The city of Cleveland failed to adequately investigate and discipline the officers involved in these excessive force cases.
It was not the murder of Tamir Rice in 2014 that launched the JD Civil Rights Investigation, but another police shooting, in which two unarmed black individuals were shot at 137 times, chased by 62 police cruisers and 100 police officers.
Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams were two homeless people from East Cleveland, who were involved in a car chase with the police. Russell was pulled over for a turn signal violation but sped off when the officer got out of his car. The chase began because officers mistakenly thought the backfire from Russell’s car were gunshots. When the police cars finally got the car stopped and had it surrounded, 13 officers fired 137 shots at the car, both Russell and Williams were hit over 20 times. One officer climbed on top of the hood of Russell’s car and shot 15 rounds through the car windshield. He alone fired his gun 49 times. Both individuals had been diagnosed with mental illnesses and were involved with drugs.
According to the online site Vox, the use of force by police officers has a huge racial disparity. FBI data show Black people account for 31% of victims killed by police officers in 2012, even though African-Americans are only 13% of the population. These stats are incomplete because it’s based on voluntary reporting from police departments around the country.
According to 2015 data analysis from the Guardian, minorities make up 46.6% of armed and unarmed victims, but 62.7% of unarmed people killed by law enforcement.
These disparities in police use of force reflects racial inequities across the entire American criminal justice system. For every 100,000 Black residents, 879 are arrested for drugs vs. 322 for every 100,000 White residents, even though the drug use is virtually the same for Black and White residents.
Vox also reports that police officers in simulation training are quicker to shoot a Black suspect according to Professor Joshua Correll, of the University of Colorado Boulder Psychology Dept. Correll believes it is possible that sub-conscious racial bias could lead to even more skewed outcomes. He went on to say, the very situations that officers need their training, there is reason to believe that their training will fail them.
In response to the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, by George Zimmerman, the organization Black Lives Matter was organized by Patrice Cullor, Opal Tometi and Alice Garza. The BLM Mission is to affirm the humanity of black people, build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted upon Black communities by the state and vigilantes. To work for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise
An August 2017 leaked FBI report from the terrorist unit identified BLM as an extremist group and a violent threat. This follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt Civil Rights groups.
BLM was founded on civil disobedience but also aimed at changing policy through lobbying and political action. The reality is this country has a history of targeting Black leaders and killing them from Medgar to Martin, to Malcolm to Fred Hampton to Mark Clark. How long will we continue to allow the state to legally murder Black people at will? How is it okay for police officers to be the judge, jury and executioner of its Black citizens? The Struggle Continues…