I’ve been haunted this week. Haunted by the faces and voices of Emmett Till, Rodney King, Sean Bell, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Rosa Richardson, Marie Scott, Mary Turner, Travon Martin, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. They’ve been repeating what I, and so many, know only to well. The United States is not safe for black people.
Last week 13 Cleveland police officers, after a high speed chase lasting almost 25 minutes and going through at least 2 other municipalities, opened fire on an automobile occupied by Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. At the end Timothy and Malissa were both dead. Malissa’s body was so damaged by bullet holes that at first glance it was unclear whether she was a man or a woman.
The story is still unfolding. No one will ever know exactly what precipitated these events. Depending on who you listen to the occupants of the car: fired a single shot in the air in the vicinity of the Justice Center downtown; or they fired at a police officer; or the police inside of the building heard what they thought was a shot and came out. At any rate at 10:21 p.m. the vehicle took off at high speed from the Justice Center followed by police. The only facts known for sure are: high speed chase for over 20 minutes; 13 officers firing a total of 137 bullets and two people with over 20 bullets each in their dead bodies.
I am saddened and angry but not surprised. When I went online to research police killings of black people in America I came across the following blog post: http://hiphopandpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/29-black-people-have-been-killed-by-policesecurity-since-jan-2012-16-since-trayvon/
Keep in mind this was written in April. How many more have been cut down in the seven months since? How many have we not heard about? How many have been beaten or brutalized but not killed? How many?
The other day at work I heard a couple of people discussing the incident. Their consensus was "there must be more to the story." How comforting it must be to be able to say that and dismiss the so very obvious. I know the story. It’s a very old one and the end is always the same. Another nigger dead (or in this case two - they got lucky).
Everyone wants to tiptoe around the dread "r" word – racism. No one wants to be the first to say it. No one wants to call a lynching a lynching. Popular mythology tells us that lynching was done by mobs of "civilians". The truth of the matter is that - at least in the case of most killings of black people - this was and is systematic killing, sanctioned by, if not actually carried out by duly appointed representatives of the "law". Of course if you say it you’re just being paranoid because of course "there must be more to the story." Just another way to say that if the police killed them they must have done something to deserve it. They must have deserved to have 13 police officers empty their guns into them, maybe more than once. People don’t get killed anymore just because they are black and in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just wish I could wear those blinders.
The reality is this – If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and lays duck eggs, it’s a duck and there is no more to the story. Until "nice" people stop ignoring it or trying to rewrite it, the story is not going to change. It will have the same ending. And we will continue to die.