Terrible things are happening right now. As if a deadly pandemic, economic distress and all the storms of hurricane season weren’t enough for one nation to deal with, the media are full of more stories of people being shot, and people marching in the streets.
Police in Kenosha, Wis., shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back as he was attempting to get away from them and into his car. The officer who shot him was close enough to have hold of his shirt — so, point-blank range — and fired his weapon seven times.
Mr. Blake somehow managed to survive, but it now looks as if he will be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.
Especially horrifying to me is the fact that there were three little boys in the back of that car — Blake’s sons, ages 3, 5 and 8. Luckily none of the seven shots hit them, but is it police policy to fire weapons with little children so nearby?
In the days and nights of protest following this incident, a White teenager — 17-years-old — got himself from his home in Antioch, Ill., to Kenosha, Wis.; allegedly armed himself with an assault-type weapon and took it upon himself to shoot 3 people, killing two of them and seriously wounding the third.
I watched a video where shortly thereafter, that teen walks right up to a police vehicle, his hands in the air, while a bystander shouts, “Hey! That dude right here just shot all of them down there!” … and the police drove right on by.
They didn’t arrest him till the next day when he was back home in Illinois.
One man killed at least two people; one didn’t.
One was shot by police multiple times at point-blank range; the other was ignored till the following day.
So is the man that was shot by police the one who killed two people?
No. They ignored him; they shot the one that was Black.
The discrepancy, the disproportion, is what’s egregious. The racism of it smacks you in the eye.
If this had been an isolated incident, people would not be in the streets. But it isn’t.
Demonstrations began this summer, around the nation and around the world, because of the death of a man named George Floyd. Floyd was already handcuffed, and on the ground, when a police officer knelt with his full weight on Floyd’s neck. He did that for more than 8 minutes, until Floyd was dead.
What was Mr. Floyd’s terrible offense? He was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit 20- dollar bill. P.S. He was Black.
Now, I have had people tell me that I can’t understand what it is like to be a police officer. And they are completely right. I honestly cannot imagine what it must be like to know there is danger someplace and run towards it. That would never be me, in a million years. (Maybe if one of my own children were in harm’s way when they were little and couldn’t protect themselves. Maybe!)
Likewise, I will be the first to say that it is not fair for us all to sit, months and sometimes years later, in comfort and safety, second- and triple-guessing a decision that a police officer had to make in the heat of the moment, in a split second…and when their life might well have been in danger.
I agree with all of that.
But. Still. There is this horrible pattern of only the Black people ending up dead, or in this case maimed, at the hands of White police.
It happens too often to be a coincidence. It happens too often to accept.
So here’s the thing: If a system keeps delivering unfair, racially biased results, time after time and year after year, then it must be said to be systematically biased. That would be true of the system, regardless of whether any particular person in it is biased, or not. We must judge it by the results it delivers.
Or look at it this way: Let’s say that there is a soda vending machine somewhere.
If that vending machine consistently crushed only the cans of Mountain Dew that were requested, while safely delivering every Coca Cola and Pepsi … well, I don’t believe that soda machine would be allowed to continue doing so.
How much more important, then, is a human life?