Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown, and John Crawford have all been killed by police officers in recent weeks and this is a touchy subject, I know. The first response that many reach for when this conversation begins to develop is that black men kill other black men at an even more alarming rate than our deaths toll at the hands of law enforcement personnel. I want to deem that argument null and void on the front end and I’ll explain why later. As an American with a darker hue, it’s slightly difficult to be unbiased when attempting to write about this from a journalistic perspective. As an American with a naturally dark tint, it is easy to identify with the victims of these circumstances. Despite this inclination, I will attempt to remain objective. We don’t know, definitively, why police officers’ actions resulted in the deaths of these Black men.
Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown, John Crawford, and Emmett Till all lost their lives violently and the news of their deaths (murders) sparked tumultuous responses. In Ferguson, Missouri, a peaceful vigil drifted into violence and looting in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and this slide into disarray will probably get more coverage and exposure than Brown’s death. The social media scene has been inundated with posts and cries of defiance. Yet none of the backlash from the victims’ communities will result in much change (if our present reflects our past accurately). What can America do about the police brutality that darker Americans seem to disproportionately befall? What will America do? Will America do something? The victims are all a part of a single demographic that America has identified as problematic and America is a country of citizens who need a readily identifiable enemy. The probes into the traumatic events will more than likely be made in search of any probable cause at the benefit of the officers as opposed to searching for any wrongdoing on their part.
America is a country comprised of people who want a readily identifiable enemy. Knowing who’s dangerous and who can’t be trusted makes us comfortable. It takes the guess work out of identifying evil. If we can label a particular group of people “The Enemy,” then we don’t have to be wary of everyone that we encounter, only that small group. We Americans like to live freely in our country, without the strain of feeling unsafe and uneasy. Unfortunately for young black men, the label falls on us more often than not and we’re the ones that our country is keeping an eye on to keep the neighborhoods safe or just in case something goes missing.
Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown, John Crawford, Emmett Till, and Trayvon Martin are but six names of Black males whose deaths have sparked outrage. Equally outrageous is the fact that military personnel are dispatched to protect innocent life and commercial property when crowds gather and riots develop, yet responses of a similar nature do not transpire in high crime areas like Chicago and Detroit where there are also innocent lives and valuable assets. Our neighbors in the Middle East receive the aid of America’s military and our financial resources as they wage Civil Wars and create states of anarchy amongst themselves, but our impoverished neighborhoods and ghettos are left uninterrupted. We build highways over these areas and let the gun battles continue beneath them.
Before we seek to find a way to position blame next to the names of Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown, John Crawford, Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and Oscar Grant we must also be cognizant that every officer who straps on a utility belt, badge, and gun does not do so with the intent to kill men who populate the minority demographic. By the same token, every young black male does not have dreams and aspirations that include shooting his neighbor, robbing a convenience store, and dying due to massive blood loss and terminal injuries. Yes, Black on Black crime rates are high (reportedly 94% of Black people killed between 1980 and 2008, died at the hands of another Black person). It is, indeed, a problem that should be addressed along with White on White crime (84% of White people slain between 1980 and 2008, were killed by other White people) and crime in general. We look to law enforcement and government to solve these problems and fix our communities, and it would be a travesty for U.S. citizens to lose all faith in our systems of justice. Let’s all be objective.
Let’s all wonder, “What if these men had different skin complexions?”