This morning three, Baton Rouge police officers were shot dead; several others wounded. This comes on the heels of the shooting/murder of five other police officers in Dallas a week ago.
It is unclear the details, and/or, circumstances surrounding the shootings as the situation is still fluid and developing.
Baton Rouge is where a 37 year old father, unarmed Black man, was gunned down by Baton Rouge police. His name was Alton Sterling.
I have been listening to, reading and watching this morning, some of the language being used by reporters from various news outlets from various media. I am going to quote a few of them: One reporter, on KFI talk radio, here in Southern California exclaimed “When is this going to stop!”…”It has to stop”!
Black People in America have been exclaiming that for centuries. The aforementioned Talk Show host made no such exclamations when Alton Sterling was murdered or Ezell Ford (right here in Los Angeles).
She went on, in a voice dripping with anxiety, panic and emotion to state: “Those Officers had families!”
Ezell Ford had a family. Alton Sterling had a family. Philando Castile had a family. Freddie Gray had a family. Sandra Bland had a family. Tony Robinson had a family. Eric Garner had a family. Walter Scott had a family. Michael Brown had a family. Dontre Hamilton had a family. John Crawford III had a family. Akai Gurley had a family. Rumain Brisbon had a family. Phillip White had a family. Tanisha Anderson had a family. 12 year old Tamir Rice, a precious little boy…had a family. Charley Leundeu Keunang had a family. All police killings in the past 24 months of Black People in America. And though not killed by police, there was 17 year old Trayvon Martin and 17 year old Jordan Davis killed by white men. Trayvon and Jordan had families.
I have a family!
She went on: “They’re just trying to do their jobs”.
“Their jobs” are inherently dangerous and no one drafted them. In fact, they love their guns and their power over life and death. Tamir was doing his job, too…just being a little boy. Akai was simply walking down a stairwell, doing “his job” to get to the bottom.
She went on: “It must be scary just to wear the uniform”. This one really got to me, because putting on that uniform is a choice that one makes by one’s own volition. However, this uniform that I wear, and my children wear, is not a choice. It cannot be taken on and off and hung in the closet, it cannot be dry cleaned, ironed, starched and festooned with badges and ribbons. It carries with it no State power, no paycheck nor compensation, no authority and, apparently, no respect. All of those that I mentioned killed by police wore this same “uniform” and in so having that uniform, we are targets (literally). Ergo, if “it must be scary” to wear a uniform that you get paid to wear and volunteer to put on, how “scary” must it be to be wearing that other one that you can’t take off?
So this disconnect continues.
Anglo Cognitive Dissonance.
I will be the first to say that I have met some great police officers; but they have been exceptions and are, thusly, “exceptional”. That’s what they called me when I was a little boy…”exceptional”. In other words, I wasn’t as dumb as the other nigger children. That’s how I took it then, and that’s how I take it now. It was an insult.
But, I digress.
Far too often the experience that Black People in America have with the police, whether it be a Harvard Professor as in Louis Gates, or Tamir Rice, or the unarmed black woman on the 10 freeway pummeled by a Highway Patrolman whom repeatedly punched her in the face with gloved fists as he straddled her, Sandra Bland, or countless others (including myself) is a negative one; no matter your station in life. It is one where disrespect is king. It is one where you are spoken to in a way that is condescending and, often, racially insulting. It is one where you are physically abused; and if the planets line up just right, you might just die. It is one where your personal effects are disrespected and your home is violated. It is one where your children see you as less than a person.
What white people don’t seem to understand is that their experience with the police is a vastly different one than that we, as Black People in America, experience. The entire program is different. The way they are approached and treated, by and large, is different. It’s very different. So, white people have a different opinion of the police (for the most part). They see the police and they feel that someone is there to “protect and to serve”, to look after them, to ensure their safety. Black People in America, as a general rule, do not have that experience. We see the police as people who are going to be disrespectful and, quite possibly, take our lives.
And that is no accident.
That is our experience. And for white people to negate that experience is the root of the problem. Constantly insulting us by negating our experiences. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. If we had the same experience that white people have, pertinent to the police, we would be saying the same things they say, and feeling the same way they feel.
But we don’t, and we ain’t.
I often listen to White Wing radio, because I want to know what these people are thinking. White Wing radio does not have millions upon millions of followers because they do not have an audience. In fact, White Wing radio represents mainstream thought in America. Kid yourself if you want.
Just a few days ago, Bill Handel a well-known talk radio host (again on KFI) had police officers call into his show to answer the question; “how has the job changed” in reference to Black Lives Matter and the Dallas shootings. One officer said “we piggy-back now…so if you are a white officer with a Black or Hispanic partner and something goes down, we make an agreement that he/she has to be the shooter…’cause we can’t shoot”.
Let that sink all the way in for a moment.
When Handel told another officer that he does believe that several Black men in a car are treated differently (Driving While Black) than that same car with the same number of white men, and asked did he agree, the officer who worked “in a predominately African-American area” commented: “absolutely not, that is not true. In fact, I would be even more suspicious if it were a car full of white kids/men because I would want to know what are you doing over here”.
I can't make this shit up.
Shortly after the Ferguson uprising, I was on the air with Thom Hartmann and I told him that events like Dallas and, now, Baton Rouge were going to happen, and will continue to happen until there is real reform.
On Monday, July 11, 2016, once again I was on air with Thom Hartmann. I contacted Thom Hartmann to discuss the Dallas shootings. At some point during the conversation, In rare dissention, I expressed to Thom Hartmann that I took exception to him, in a previous show, referring to the alleged Dallas “sniper” as “an idiot”. Thom, being the genius that he is, explained why he said what he said, and it was an intelligent explanation. At some point in the conversation Thom Hartmann, with whom I have had many a conversation, said to me: “First of all, Kenyatta, I just want to be very, very clear, and I hope that you are not even dancing towards the edge of saying that this sniper’s actions were justified”. I responded by saying: “No... Debbie didn’t do Dallas, despair did Dallas”. However, the manner in which Hartmann made the statement bordered between being a challenge and a threat. The entire exchange is at: http://kbcs.fm/programs/thom-hartmann/ hour 1 at 35:03 and ends at 45:33.
So Thom, I stand by my statement that I do not "justify" the actions of the alleged Dallas shooter. However, I do not "unjustify" them either. When you, and other white folks have a comparable list of police murders of mostly unarmed citizens, by BLACK police officers, including your 12 year old children, then you can more credulously be righteously indignant. Further, you will have the opportunity to show me how "non-violent" you are in similar circumstances. You will have a frame of reference from which to provide me a real life, credible example of how you responded. The mere fact that you cannot should trouble a man with your intellect and decency. You and your brethren seriously need to put the proverbial shoe on the other foot. You talk about Martin Luther King and Ghandi while your nation has waged a decades and a half long war killing children across the globe because someone brought violence to you.
Anglo Cognitive Dissonance.
One of the things that white people, often unconsciously, count on is Black People in America being fearful of them. History is replete with examples of this; thus the slave patrol inspired policing, thus the resultant murders. Some time ago, I did an essay called Mau-Mau and Me: https://www.thomhartmann.com/users/r-kenyatta/blog/2015/09/blackism-mau-mau-and-me-origins-anglo-fear .
The aforementioned essay tells the perilous tale of “fear” and “terrorism”, in a metaphorical sense. White people know the His-Story of this country, they know what they have done to us…for centuries. In their minds, they must terrorize us and keep us in fear. And they trust in that fear (for good reason). They trust that the terrorism that they have wrought upon us has taken root so deeply, that we dare not fight back; that we dare not use their own mechanisms against them. But, unfortunately, there are Black People in America, men and women that will not sit idly by and watch our husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, and…children be murdered with impunity.
Once again, I ask white Americans to “flip the script”. Look at how you are acting in the wake of these cop killings. One reporter on a major network said, this morning: “We just lost five of our own in Dallas…and now another three of our own in Baton Rouge”.
That is very, very telling.
We’ve been losing “our own” for centuries.
At some point, white America is going to have to take stock of how it treats us. That fear and terrorism, like all things, has a point of critical mass.
And it has been reached.