I have to admit that very few of these incidents involving unarmed black men being shot by the police worried me personally, or had me thinking “that could have been me.” I don’t know why, just the natural human reaction that as bad as an incident is, you just don’t think it can happen in your neighborhood or to you. That’s the way I was thinking.
That is, until the recent incident in South Carolina where a South Carolina State Trooper opened fire on a black man at a busy gas station. The incident was caught on the Trooper’s dash cam and frankly it is one of the scariest things I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen the video watch it here.
In it you see that the Trooper pulls up on a black man who is standing outside his vehicle at a gas station. Doing nothing threatening at all, except for not wearing a seat belt (the reason he was pulled over, the Trooper stated). That’s the extent of the threat. So the officer asks the middle-aged man to show him his driver’s license. The man turns to retrieve the license from the car as asked and that is when the officer opens fire. Not once, but several times.
I still have trouble wrapping my head around what happened: the man was doing as the officer asked, never argued, never fought, never threatened. Yet he was shot several times because, well, just because the officer decided this man was a threat. This whole epidemic, for lack of a better word, has really gotten out of hand. And now it is beyond the place where any of us can turn a blind eye to what's going on here. We are not talking about one or two cases, in one state, we are talking about incidents all around the country and to black men of all walks of life, being taken down by cops or civilians who felt they had the right to do so because of the color of the victim's skin. Here are a few other high profile incidents:
16 year old Kimani Gray was shot seven times, including in the back three times by two NYC police officers as he left a friend’s birthday party. An eye-witness swears he was unarmed.
Kendrec McDade was shot in Pasadena by officers who thought he was armed and a robbery suspect. He was neither. He only had a cell phone in his pocket.
John Crawford III was shot in a Wal-Mart in Ohio because he was holding an air rifle the store itself had for sale. Survelliance footage of the incident revealed that Crawford had, in fact, dropped the gun before police officers opened fire.
Eric Garner, a 43-year-old asthmatic father of six, was confronted by New York City police officers for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. When Garner dared to question why he was being harassed, he was put in a choke hold and died on the sidewalk.
I could go on and on. It is about more than Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin in Florida. What it is about is that all of us, black, white, brown, or other, should be outraged. Because this is not how police officers are supposed to act. They are supposed to be here to protect us - all of us. Being afraid that a police officer, a person with a license to kill, can shoot me any time he decides I am threatening, whether I am or not, is not how this is supposed to be. And the fact that the officer will most likely get away with it, when any other civilian would be charged with murder, is outrageous.
Being black is not a crime. More and more it looks like some officers are deciding it is.