Nonfiction Societal The Word 7 minute read

Not A Bit Surprised: The Killings in Dallas

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Those five Dallas police officers should not have been murdered.  But I am not even slightly surprised that they were.  I only continue to be surprised at how divided we are as a nation — how we really aren’t communicating across racial lines, political lines or economic lines.  NO ONE IS LISTENING, evidently.

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Why are newscasters and the guests that they interview displaying such shock about these shootings this morning?  I could understand if I were seeing outrage, fear or sadness; but shock?  I didn’t expect shock.  They haven’t been listening.

Did you not hear our rage?

When people are stunned by current events, oftentimes it means that they don’t know the history, context or the back-story.  I want people to understand.

  • Black people have been unfairly persecuted by police officers.  This fact is so understood in the Black community that every Black child has been provided with lessons on how to deal with cops (and know that our instructions were dramatically different than White people’s instructions).  Sadly, we have always quietly accepted that:
    • We would get stopped far more frequently than any White person;
    • We would get stopped for no reason;
    • We would be talked to disrespectfully at a minimum;
    • Our job was to give them the satisfaction that they needed of making us feel inferior to them. Black people have been trained to (falsely) give police officers more respect than teachers, doctors, ministers, or judges.
  • Despite our efforts, almost every Black man has a story of being unfairly treated by a police officer.
    • I don’t know one Black man who hasn’t been harassed by the police.
    • Black people swap cop stories the way some swap war stories.
    • I know that it is an easier story to accept that there is only a certain “type” of Black man who is being harassed. When I say EVERY Black man I know has been harassed, I am not exaggerating.  My husband, who is now a lawyer, has been spread eagle in the middle of a Seattle street with guns drawn on him (mistaken identity).  Later in life, he stopped driving my car because he was stopped two times in three days when he drove it.
    • Sadly, some Black people also believed that there was a certain type of Black person who got harassed.  So we forced our sons to cut their dreads, made them turn down their music, sent them to certain schools, and made them dress a certain way.  But then, social media brought us Black people who live in different neighborhoods and have different lives, closer together.  And we saw that none of it made any difference.  All Black men, regardless of dress, education, behavior, were at risk.  There was NOTHING we could do to escape the risk of our sons, our husbands or our friends being abused by police officers.

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  • Then we learn that the assault isn’t against just Black men, but that it’s against all Black people, when 12 year-old Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland are killed by police.

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  • And though there were countless stories, complaints and reports about police brutality nothing was done.  Perhaps we needed more proof because clearly our word was worthless.
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  • Video cameras started substantiating our claims.  Starting with Rodney King, we thought that change was going to happen.  Who could refute recorded evidence?  Evidently every state and most judges and juries can.  So Black people watched their people get violently beaten over and over and over again.  We thought you were watching it too.

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  • Black leaders wrote letters outlining our need for change.
  • We marched and we protested, and yes, we rioted.

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  • But,our people kept being beaten and killed on tape with no consequences for the cops.

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  • Our Black men are shown in the middle of streets and slumped in cars, bloodied and dead — repeatedly like animals.  Mike Brown laid in the middle of his neighborhood street for 5 hours soaked in his own blood.  I don’t think I have ever seen a dead White person on the news.  Is it out of respect for the deceased and their families perhaps?  Even our dead receive less respect.  Are our dead men shown repeatedly as a warning to us (like a modern day hanging)?

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  • Instead of being respected, every victim’s character is massacred in the media.  He is slaughtered twice.
  • No one ever shows any remorse.  No one ever accepts any responsibility.  Conversely, Black people are blamed. “He should have followed the law.”  He should have complied.  He was a thug.  Black people need to focus on Black-on-Black crime.
  • When we try to talk about the issue — in whatever forum — we are shut down or shut out because talking about race makes White people uncomfortable, and that discomfort trumps our problems.  We create the seemingly innocent slogan, Black Lives Matter and get the retort All Lives Matter.  Blue Lives Matter laws have already been passed in states (interesting how quickly issues can get handled with the “right” people are involved).image
  • So throughout the years, we have continued to write letters, to march, to protest, to give speeches, to educate our sons, to show videos of the brutality, only to watch more and more Black people get killed by police with no consequences.
  • No matter what we do there has been no change.
  • No change
  • No change

Fear, which used to be police officers greatest weapon against us, turned to anger when no one would listen, no one seemed to care and there was no change.  Our men (and our women) kept being murdered.  The whole world watched our dead men on their television sets over and over again and no one would help us.  Everyone seemed deaf to our screams.  So people began to feel desperate.  I certainly felt desperate.  How do I protect my sons, my husband, my friends?  What can I do?  What can we do?  We’ve tried everything and nothing is changing.

Then Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are killed by police within 24 hours of each other.  Nothing is changing!

I felt sick watching their bloody lifeless bodies shown over and over again on the news.

I felt desperate when I watched Alton Sterling’s son wailing on television.  I felt desperate when after killing Philando Castile in front of his girlfriend and 6 year old daughter, the girlfriend was taken to the police station (as if she was a criminal) and questioned for five hours with no food or water.

Help us!  Who do you call to help you — when its the police themselves that are killing you (and even the good cops (which most cops are) aren’t speaking out against them?

What do we do to stop the killings?

Should we have trusted the justice system to handle the cops?

Should we protest again?

Should we march again?

Should we pray again?

Should our leaders write more letters?

What can we do to stop the sanctioned, public executions of our people?  Murdering those cops — taking their lives –and breaking up their families was horrifically wrong.  Those men were there to do their jobs and to protect the protest attendees.  Yet while I know the murders were wrong, I remain unsurprised.  Desperate people will do desperate things, particularly when there seem to be no answers.

Black lives need to be valued.  We need to have the same rights as everyone else.

What do we need to do to get you to think our lives are as valuable as those of the five cops’?  Did you show their dead bodies on TV?  Have you started to slander their characters’ yet?  Why were these deaths immediately “senseless”?  You were so anxious to get justice that you flashed the wrong suspect’s picture across every news station; yet it takes days or weeks to see the officers responsible for killing our family members.  Those five officers’ deaths have gotten more respect, attention and visibility in 12 hours than all the literally hundreds of Black deaths have gotten combined.

It’s almost as if a police officer’s life matters more than a Black life.

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