It has been just under two years since I publicly made what, to me, was a very straightforward request for a favor:
Nearly two years later, I guess I have my answer:
Please follow me below the orange fleur de lys (yes, I know it's not actually a fleur de lys!)
Let's do a brief recap of the news since Jordan Davis was gunned down, prompting my November 2012 diary, shall we?
- On August 18 2014, Kajieme Powell was killed by a white police officer in St. Louis because, according to the police, he came at them with a knife "in an overhand grip" (although according to a videotape that St. Louis law enforcement themselves have released in what can only be described as a failed attempt to keep St. Louis from looking like Ferguson, he did not).
- On August 11, 2014, Ezell Ford, a mentally disabled man whose disability was well known to neighborhood LAPD, was shot dead by white officers in South Los Angeles. Depending upon whose story you believe, he either "spun around, tucked his head toward the officer’s gun and basically tackled him to the ground, trying to grab at the weapon.” or he was lying down on the ground when he was shot three times by the cops.
- On August 9, 2014, (as we all have heard) Michael Brown was killed by a white officer while fleeing following that officer's initial attempt to detain his 18-year-old self for jaywalking in Ferguson, Missouri.
- On August 5, 2014, John Crawford III was killed by a white officer while handling a BB gun in a Walmart near Dayton, Ohio, after some random white folks raised the "scary black man with a gun! alarm" by calling 911 without a nanosecond's thought about why someone would actually be holding a BB gun in a place where these items were for sale. Crawford was 21 years old.
- On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was killed by a white officer using a chokehold after an arrest for allegedly illegally selling cigarettes (what we used to call "loosies" back in 'hood back in the day, although we didn't know then that selling them was a death sentence) in Staten Island, New York.
- On September 14, 2013, Jonathan Ferrell was shot and killed by a white officer after crashing his car in Charlotte, North Carolina, and seeking help from what we can all hopefully agree was the wrong white woman.
- On November 2, 2013, Renisha McBride, was shot and killed by a white homeowner in Detrooit, Michigan, after she crashed her car and knocked on his door seeking help.
- On March 9, 2013, Kimani Gray was shot seven times by two police officers in Brooklyn, New York, as he left a friend's birthday party. He was 16 years old, but the cops claimed he had a gun even when the witnesses say he was hauling ass trying to save his life (sound familiar?) and the bullets pumped into the front and the back of him appear to bear that out.
- On December 2, 2012, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot 137 times by 63 of Cleveland's finest (and ultimately killed) after a police officer said that he "thought he heard a gunshot" from the car. A high-speed chase began, which violated Cleveland's own rules about high speed chases. No matter that in the end there was, in fact, no gun. Russell and Williams were high on coke, so they deserved it. Not to mention that Malissa Williams was just "bad news" all the way around.
I could go on. Lord knows, I've cried enough since I wrote that diary.
But, here's the problem. These names listed above are not the only ones. Quite the contrary. My last diary, with my completely reasonable request, ended up leaving out a LOT of dead black people. After all, there is a 10,000-word limit on diaries. (I've already hit that twice, I don't need a third time to pay for all!)
Here are just a few of those I forgot, because they deserved better from me and this has been going on a long, long time:
- On May 6, 2012, 18 year old Alan Blueford was killed in Oakland, California 2 weeks before his high school graduation after running from the cops for reasons unknown, tripping and falling and not exchanging gunfire with the officer who killed him (despite Oakland's original lies to the contrary.
- March 21, 2012 saw the bystander murder of Rekia Boyd who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a white police officer, responding to an nuisance call about noise coming from the park, claimed he saw another young black man reach for his "gun" (which turned out to be his cellphone) after he'd turned away from the boy and blindly fired 5 shots over his shoulder, injuring the boy but killing Ms. Boyd by a shot to the head.
- On March 20, 2010, Steven Washington—27 years old and autistic—was shot by two gang-enforcement officers after he was approached by the cops, who said they'd "heard a loud sound in the area" and Washington was "looking around suspiciously" and, ultimately "took something out of his waistband" (later changed to "appeared to," go figure). Naturally, no weapon was ever recovered.
- Aaron Campbell left this life in Portland, Oregon, on February 28, 2005. He was 25 years old. Campbell was shot in the back by a cop who said he thought the unarmed man was "reaching toward his waistband for a weapon." Everyone else said that Aaron was walking backward toward police with his hands locked behind his head moments before the fatal shot was fired. No surprise to anyone.
- We musn't forget Ronald Madison, 40, and James Brisette, 17, who lost their human right to live (a lot more than the "civil rights" violation black folks are always asked to settle for in these cases) on September 4, 2005. That day white officers fired on them as they were simply being, unarmed, on the eastern side of the Danziger Bridge, fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (As a bonus, Madison got stomped on before he died.) In a rare occurrence, the cops were actually convicted of something—violation of their "civil rights". Not murder, though, and that is NOT a distinction without a difference.
- Orlando Barlow was killed in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 8, 2003. He was 28 years old and shot from 50 feet away because "I thought he was reaching for a gun" while he was on his hands and knees, surrendering in front of witnesses. That ultimately was deemed "justifiable homicide" by a cop who was a card-carrying member of the "BDRT," which stood for "Baby Daddy Removal Team" and "Big Dogs Run Together," (they even had T-shirts!).
Of course, there are the lucky ones. They weren't shot to death. Just tasered to death. Here are just a couple of those from recent years:
- On August 12, 2014, 36 year old Dante Parker was tasered to death after he was stopped by a white officer while riding his bike in Victorville, California—a hobby he had taken up to try and lose a little weight.
- Alonzo Ashley made the mistake of being a 29-year-old splashing water from a drinking fountain on his face at the Denver Zoo in 2011. Police claimed that he "made irrational comments" (whatever the fuck that means) and ultimately "threw a trash can," perhaps because of what cops claimed was his "extraordinary strength." No criminal charges there; totally understandable that he's dead, right?
Let's just make sure we're clear: you don't have to be young and "thuggish" to lose your life as a Black child of God.
- For confirmation you can ask Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. who took those Life Alert commercials too seriously when they said the device could save your life. Thanks to his Life Alert, he lost his life at the age of 68 in a hail of taser fire, bean bags and, finally, a real gunshot in his home on November 19, 2011 thanks to the cops who just couldn't take "Seriously, I'm fine!" for an answer when they were dispatched to his home and broke down the door.
- You could also ask Army veteran Shem Walker (well, you could have asked him, except that he was gunned down on July 11, 2009 at the age of 49) what it feels like trying to shoo away from your family's property you think is a thug loitering around only to be shot to death for your trouble by an undercover who, of course, claimed afterward that it looked like [Walker] was reaching for his gun.
Police first floated the story that Aiyana's grandmother had grabbed Weekley's gun. Then, realizing that sounded implausible, they said she'd brushed the gun as she ran past the door. But the grandmother says she was lying on the far side of the couch, away from the door.Sound familiar?
[Just so people are crystal clear about how things roll when innocent Black children are killed, Aiyana Stanley-Jones' grieving father (who wasn't even arrested until a year and a half after Aiyana's death) was sentenced earlier this year to 40 years in prison as a result of the same incident that killed his daughter. Not for actually killing someone, mind you, or even planning to kill someone. Indeed, he was not even the target of the raid that led to little Aiyana's death. Nope: Aiyana's father was instead indicted and convicted, for giving a gun to someone else (according to a white jailhouse snitch whose own criminal legacy is far uglier, mind you) who killed someone. Meanwhile, Aiyana's soul is 4 years now waiting for justice. The first trial of the cop that killed her deadlocked. The second was supposedly rescheduled for December 4 of last year, nearly a year ago, but has YET to take place.]
This is why it is an American fact now that, depending on who you believe, a black man or woman is killed by law enforcement every 28 or every 40 hours in this country. Perhaps to some, once every day or so is not so bad. After all, there are millions of us black folks in the U.S. Nearly 40 million. So if only 400 of us are offed a year, what the hell! All of us Negros just pump out more children than we can afford anyway (with multiple babydaddies and no marriages, we mustn't forget that), right?
The sheer scope of the killings is such that even the most skeptical white folks with a genuine belief in the goodness of this country might eventually ask questions. More and more of them are in fact finally asking the right questions, for which I am truly grateful. So, since the questions are being asked more and more by the people whose opinion and upset actually matters in America (since, of course, the only folks in America whose upset and angst really matters in these cases is white folks, unless us black folks are yellin' and lootin' and allegedly 'shootin' in protest like they were in Ferguson) the official narrative of these killings appears to be changing in subtle ways. I'm convinced that this is because the old "I thought he had a gun" script just was causing too much dissonance for American white folks with the increasing number of stories about cops telling that tale as their first line of defense only to have it shown to be false. So now, the official law enforcement script is more often to "He/she (IT, let's say "it" plain—we're all friends here and dehumanization is the unconscious mindset that allows this to happen over and over and OVER again hundreds of times) tried to grab my gun!" (Or, I thought IT was "going to try.")
Seriously, how many times have you heard this, when another one of us is killed?
A lot of cops lie. About their conduct. About their victims' conduct.
This is not a "bad apple" situation, this lying. It is the regular course of business. When they do it under oath those few times they are forced to, it even has a name: testilying.
In the largest police department in the country, this has been known for the last 20 years:
New York City police officers often make false arrests, tamper with evidence and commit perjury on the witness stand, according to a draft report of the mayoral commission investigating police corruption. The practice -- by officers either legitimately interested in clearing the streets of criminals or simply eager to inflate statistics -- has at times been condoned by superiors, the report says. And it is prevalent enough in the department that it has its own nickname: "testilying."the hang-em-high-if-humanly-possible-to-do-so Judge Alex Kozinski, lamented 20 years ago that no less than 20 percent of the time, officers appearing before him in federal court (where people do not fuck around, however much crap litigants try and pull before state court judges) were perjuring themselves.
. . .
And in its discussion of false testimony by officers, the report says that the commission "was told of officers up to the rank of captain being actively complicit in and even encouraging warrantless searches and subsequent perjury."
It is an open secret long shared by prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges that perjury is widespread among law enforcement officers.Despite these now-routine lies told by law enforcement and white vigilantes about all these unarmed Black folks instigating their own deaths, everyone with a modicum of sense untainted by unconscious racism knows—if they let themselves know, however ugly it might make them feel about America and how guilty they might feel that they have not previously risen up in protest—the truth.
The truth is that you might end up going to prison yourself if you actually do even think about rolling up on a law enforcement officer with violence, even in self-defense. Just ask one of the lucky few who actually lived through trying to. Like Lorenzo Colston did in East Texas in 1994. Colston had the audacity to stand on his rights not to identify himself when he had not been accused of a crime, to demand, "Why are you doing this to me?!" while kneeling on the ground AND to fight the police back in self-defense when they started kicking his ass ("Because you won't tell me your damn name!"). Colston ultimately had enough, cut tail and ran for his life. Fortunately for Colston, he got an understanding jury at his aggravated assault trial (where he was facing 10 years) and ended up "only" a felony probationer.)
(In case folks think the story of Mr. Colston and what happens to Black folks who actually might have tried to defend themselves against the cops for real is "too old" since it's from 1994, here's one from just a couple of years ago. Antonio Cross aka the boy that lived but lost his thumb aka the person that the cop that killed Rekia Boyd, above, was really trying to shoot, was charged immediately after the incident that killed Rekia with aggravated assault against the officer. But for the fact that the cop simply did not show up at the preliminary hearing (when was the last time you heard THAT?) Mr. Cross would have been facing up to 30 years in prison because of that clearly bullshit charge against him.)
Despite the truth, the perpetrators of these killings continue to rely on these bald-faced lies ("I thought he had a gun!"; "I thought he was reaching for a gun" "I thought he was trying to take my gun"; and all the many variants we have heard) for a very simple reason: too many whites are willing to believe them, and repeat them, and promote them, and get all hincty about when someone tries to tell them that most black folks ain't stupid and don't voluntarily set to get themselves killed outside of ignorant gang situations.
This is why most of the white perpetrators of the extrajudicial killings of unarmed Black people get away with it. Indeed, if it's a law enforcement killer, most never even get charged.
Given the virtual certainty that nobody is going to have to face meaningful justice for gunning down innocent Black folks because of the assumptions and the bald-faced lies, and given that most people know this deep down in their hearts, the only way you get any attention to this ongoing, never-ending pattern of killing our (usually innocent) young black people (I can no longer say just "black men") is by protesting in the streets. And then, after the cops bait you enough, rioting.
Before Ferguson, the last time this country saw anything that could be seriously called a riot because of police brutality was in Los Angeles upon the acquittal of Rodney King's attackers in April 1992 of any crime—despite the existence of video proving that Rodney had been brutalized by the police. It's 2014, 20 years later, and it has taken another riot following police abuse of authority to get folks to pay attention to this problem yet again when video of police brutality proves that law enforcement lies like a mad dog in its zeal to kill yet another black person. The proof is a rash all over the internet.
Unfortunately, that does not seem to have slowed down that every-58-hours kill clock all that much.
Ah, well. At least there are those lucky enough to have lived, like Christopher Bell, a 6-year-old who was shot for throwing rocks in his cop neighbor's pool in Toledo, Ohio, in 1994.
We all thought, after Rodney King, that the videotape would make all the difference. Cops couldn't engage in testilying, because of course the video showed everything. Yet that was not true before 1994, as the Coltson case confirms (the entire incident was caught by police dashcam). It isn't true now, either.
I guess we should be grateful. Apparently, only 32 percent of white Americans think there was absolutely nothing wrong with Darren Wilson gunning down Michael Brown like a dog in the street while he was running for his life. But that statistic was from a few days ago. Now that the niggerization of Michael Brown is well underway and that of Dorian Johnson (the companion whose honestly about what occurred before his friend Michael Brown was killed makes him a highly credible witness) has now begun in earnest, I suspect that number won't hold for very long.
Meanwhile it's remains officially Open Carry for Whites and Open Season on Blacks.
We all know this. Thus, this is what it has come to: BABIES riding on the damned school bus understanding why black people all over America are coming together in the newest, most painful, community salute created by black people ever:
Hands up. Don't shoot!
My people, my people, my people. I love you. I am with you. And I fight for you, as an activist, as a lawyer ,as a part of your Family. But here's the deal: In our unified gesture, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," there is genuine rhetorical power. But there is also a quiet message of submission. We are a people who despite the many ills facing our people today thanks to hundreds of years of oppression in a land we largely built, continue to stand. Our backs are collectively bent. But they are not yet broken. We should not submit. Not ever.
We need to embrace and love the white allies that stand with us truly, courageously, while accepting that the majority will never be that courageous because they either hate us outright or in their calculus of value it costs too much to put an end to it all.
So I'd like to suggest that there is another salute that needs to make a comeback now. I don't care how much it scares white people. We scare them just by growing up. By being male. By being drunk. Shoplifting. Being mentally ill. By being too successful. Not being successful enough. By the time you add up the litany of reasons, it is clear that our very existence in their midst scares them. Given that, is there any reason that we are not yet again embracing this gesture?
My hope stems from two sources. The first is the hope that is created simply watching the successful impact of public protest. Make no mistake: were black folks not finally sick and tired of being sick and tired of these stories and increasingly willing to raise hell in a demand to see some scintilla of justice, the world—and especially not white America, except for those who care enough to actually look—would never have heard of Trayvon, Jordan, Sean, Ramarley, Eric and all the too-many-to-list here names of the dead.
The second source of my hope is this: Just as was the case with de jure segregation before the U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education more than 60 years ago (before Justice Roberts took it all away in 2007, of course) America is being watched by the world—and the world is again calling America out as a hypocrite because of how it treats us Black people, its former slaves and ongoing bottom-rung class. This scrutiny and hypocrisy call-out by America's "enemies" worked once before for Black people, if history and the research into the subject of Black civil (Not civil; HUMAN) rights here in America is to be believed.
Let's pray and hope this worldwide embarrassment and call out of America as a hypocrite again makes a difference, now that is now again open season on Black people in America on all fronts, including through the unrelenting pattern of extrajudicial murder by law enforcement and cop wannas.
Because, damn it, I am tired of having to write these diaries.
UPDATE #2: I continue to have egg on my face, overlooking folks. So h/t to Allergywoman, who reminded me of a story I meant to include but simply forgot: that of 22 year old Victor White III. Victor was killed by the New Iberia, Louisiana, police department on March 22, 2014. What is notable about Victor's story is not just that I forgot him; it's that he has now clearly become the second winner of the Chavis Carter Expert Marksmanship Award. This award is only earned by those young black men who manage to (according to the cops, anyhow) "commit suicide" while being handcuffed behind their backs with guns that mysteriously managed to show up not during the pat down search upon their detainment, but only after they are dead.