Within the span of just a few days, we lost Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Both events were caught on camera, both men were black, and both show that typical brand of hyper-excessive force applied by white cops. These things matter because in 2015, alone, 1,146 people were killed by police and 15% of that number were black men between the ages of 15-34. How about this year? This year there have been 566 deaths at the hands of police. That’s close to half, and it’s only July.
Each one of those people loved someone, liked some TV show, played a new song on repeat, maybe had a favorite hobby, animal, color…each one was loved by someone. And now, they’re entirely gone, relegated to inanimation, to stories, memories, and Facebook photographs. Let that sink in. Each one of those breathing, dreaming beings lost their lives during an encounter with someone whose task it was to protect them.
A police officer, no…a cop- a cop killed Alton Sterling and guess what? He was given paid administrative leave. A cop killed Philando Castile and, again, paid administrative leave. Being put on paid administrative leave when you should be put in jail does not sound like retribution to me. It sounds like a vacation. You killed a man most likely because he was black and now you’re on vacation. These men were awarded for being murderers, plain and simple.
And you know this is going to keep happening, because not only is nothing is really being done about it, but it appears that now there is an incentive. Next time a cop approaches a black man in a vehicle, he knows that even if the traffic stop gets out of hand (and it will, because of course it will), he’ll get to stay home, scratch his nutsack, grill some burgers, and sip on those delicious blended mojitos that his wife Margaret made on the sunny patio all the while that dead black man’s family is completely and utterly demolished emotionally, financially, and, yes, irremediably. Does that register? Does that not anger you?
This is troubling. It keeps happening because, again, no one is actually doing anything about it. There shouldn’t just be “outrage”, as our beloved media suggests, there should be deep systemic changes, policy overhauls, budgetary allocations, motherfucking PARADIGM SHIFTS! Some of these changes are simple and completely possible law enforcement implementations like: MANDATORY body cams on cops, MANDATORY cultural sensitivity training, and MANDATORY annual psychological testing supplemented by MANDATORY regular therapy sessions by qualified mental health professionals, to name a few! In addition to these, we need cops to be held accountable –but ACTUALLY held accountable- for their crimes beyond the strategic coddling of administrator politics and city quotas. We need undercover Internal Affair auditors to interact with officers on the streets and generate reports on any unprofessional, untoward or excessive behavior.
And what’s more is that we need to stop defending these cops on some “he’s just doing his job” pretext when what we’re really saying is that “I have serious, unexamined notions about the danger posed by black people, so I sympathize with that cop no matter what happened.” That is not a just appraisal of any situation. As a white cop, or civilian for that matter, you are not entitled to superiority over a black man. You’re not better than anyone else. I repeat, you are NOT better than anyone else, even if you have a gun. You cannot force respect, and you cannot assume mastery. Both of these things are earned.
You know, I once started a short-story about a new police recruit who stumbles upon a hidden high-tech mind control lab at his police academy. After some poking around, he ends up discovering that trainees are unsuspectingly being programmed to kill black men as part of some deeply conspiratorial eugenics program. I never finished it mostly because I thought it was silly and way too far-fetched, some Manchurian Candidate rip-off. But now, after bearing witness to the mounting tragedies this week, I realize that even that explanation is more plausible than the fucked up reality. It somehow makes more sense to imagine a sci-fi master plot where these killings by police are just responses to some undetectable prompts and hypnotic stimuli instigated by a nefarious New World Order regime bend on taking over. Doesn’t it make more sense that these murders would be part of some well-thought out fantastic plot rather than the alternative? And isn’t that sad?
Our country rewards mindless, Frankenstein monster-like meat-headed police officers for cowardly offing unarmed black men with paid vacations. Does that sound like our reality or some very bad plot? Oh, I get it, not all officers are like that and there have been repercussions for some of these tragedies. I get it, but is that enough? These racially-motivated killings occur because the officers…err, cops perpetuating them have low self-esteem, terrible judgment, latent-racism, fractured identities, psychological instability, a crude and unstable relationship with power, and poor self-awareness. These are the men with the guns making life or death decisions. Is this real? Ray Bradbury couldn’t make this shit up.
(Originally published on Disinfo.com on July 8, 2016.)