Never thought I could bear to post a picture such as this; I’m turning some kind of corner. Let me be clear, I remain vociferous about the need for body cams and cop car video. They must become required standard issue equipment for all officers on duty.
Further, the citizen videos that have shown the world the truth of police brutality against black people have already changed the course of history. They are crucially important and most often beyond heroic.
But I also wonder at the way the steady stream of both sorts of videos plays into and expands the racist mentality that has a history of using such images as vindication and normalization. It’s black death as spectacle, snuff film. Notice how often the bodies are left to lie in the road. Or how the dying black person is handcuffed rather than given emergency care.
And yes, children, black and white, are seeing the videos and are forever shaped by the talk, the responses, the pronouncements they hear about them in their respective worlds.
There is no denying the smug gratification the old (often made into postcards at the time) and new images generate.
[I write this after sitting stunned in my seat listening to a call-in right-wing radio program. The hosts and the callers all but vied in outdoing each other spinning likely scenarios to vindicate the Oklahoma murderer. A whole lot of “well, we can’t really see what he is doing when he lowers his right hand. They might have though he was reaching for a gun.” It was like listening to a bunch of script writers in a writers room, each trying to top the others with “plausible” reasons to shoot the man dead in the street.
And it occurred to me that it is the latest installment in a sort of multi-act interactive performance. A game of Justify The Black Person’s Death.]
These cases are not about what commentators and pundits keep saying they are about. Think for a moment about who joins police forces. There is a direct line from birtherism, Muslim President, Don’t Tread on Me, etc. to shooting a 12 year old dead at point blank range.
These deaths, and others that we don’t even know about, are ways of saying not only will most white men never respect any black man as President, these officers, sworn to protect and defend, are making it clear that black men’s lives have little value and they can kill them with total impunity.
It might be ironic, but, because these Tea-Party-in-uniform types keep pushing to the extremes, Obama will likely end up being a human/civil rights president in spite of himself.
Up, down, or across, each one nails it.
From the very beginning, the reaction to Ferguson has felt different, and over the months the protests there never let up. Now this is happening across the country. American Spring?
Leonard Blair hangs Damon Davis’ artwork on plywood covered windows in Ferguson, MO. Hands up. All sizes, ages, colors, genders, in black and white photos. Pasted over raw plywood on windows boarded up in anticipation of the grand jury decision.
Beautiful and instantly iconic.
Once again, Black improvisation, under siege and defying oppression, produces brilliant art. But at what human cost?
Awful news is cops seem to be trying to outdo each other in taking out unarmed black men, women and children and getting away with it. (Almost wrote “getting off.” That too.)
Hopeful news is so many people are on video alert; half the country is walking around with their phones in their hands and start filming scuffles and police action almost as a reflex. Plus security cameras are everywhere.
Weird news is that cops seem oblivious to greater than 50-50 possibility that they will be caught on camera doing this shit. Not that grand juries will weigh it as they should. But SM is galvanizing public response.
And people lose sight of the fact that even if these uniformed shooters and beaters get off on criminal charges, they often end up costing their municipalities millions in civil judgments.
Missouri police officer on leave over video in which he says: ‘I’m … a killer’
They are crawling out from under their own rocks. Just connect the dots – from rage-fueled hatred of President Obama to declaring open season on powerless young black men. For each of these outspoken killers in military or civilian uniform, imagine how many anonymous like-minded men and women are in agreement and cheering them on.
A few weeks ago I was at a train station standing next to what turned out to be a mother, father, and young child heading off on a trip, and a few friends and family there to see them off. All white. Blue collar I’d guess, a pleasant group of 7-8 folks of various ages.
The group included a couple of charming little girls, around 4 years old. They were dancing around and singing that song from Frozen, occasionally getting a little too exuberant as they do at that age. We all smiled benignly at them from time to time.
Dad reined in one giddy dancer for a quiet moment. She stood for a bit. Looked at me quite seriously, and then turned to her father and said, sort of as a question, as if she wanted to get it right, “stupid nigger.”
He pretended I wasn’t there, but told her not to say that. No raised voice, no shock or dismay on Dad’s part. All matter of fact. We all continued to stand around. Not everyone in their chatting group even heard it.
It took me a few minutes, but I think I know what happened. It occurred to me that she simply repeated, in the everyday tone her father uses, exactly what he says whenever he notices the President on TV — a casual observation. She wasn’t quite sure, because I was not a man.
So much for that little member of the coming enlightened generation. But also, a bit of insight into the Fox TV demographic living room. Most of their viewers are not wild-eyed weirdos. Just folks raising their kids — and passing along their family values.