[Speaking Truth To Power]
This week, a North Carolina grand jury indicted a White police officer for shooting a Black man ten times, last September, when he was apparently seeking assistance—after an accident in a suburban neighborhood.
Is the continuous nation-wide police killing of African-American men indicative of White America’s institutional racism within law enforcement agencies?
On Monday, a grand jury in Charlotte indicted Officer Randall Kerrick of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on a charge of voluntary manslaughter for the September 14, 2013 shooting death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell. The former Florida A&M football player had gotten into a car crash, sometime around 2: a.m., and was apparently seeking help when he was shot dead by Officer Kerrick.
After the crash, Mr. Ferrell sought assistance from a female resident in the area—who called 911 and reported that someone was trying to break into her home. Officer Kerrick along with two officers was then dispatched to the area. Reportedly, Officer Kerrick went to track Mr. Ferrell down and eventually shot him 10 times—after firing 12 shots.
Last week, another grand jury failed to indict Officer Kerrick—with that jury recommending the filing of lesser charges. But officials instead convened a new grand jury with the same charge and secured this week’s indictment. On January 13, lawyers for Mr. Ferrell’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Officer Kerrick and officials in the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Among other things, the lawsuit accuses Officer Kerrick of being “in direct violation of written police department regulations, fires 12 high-velocity bullets at Jonathan, striking him 10 times in the chest and arms.” The lawsuit also states that Mr. Ferrell “never engages in any conduct which can be objectively reasonably interpreted as aggravated active aggression.”
Back in September 14, police admitted “the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive. Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.” However, police stated that “The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick.”
Assuming this goes to trial, will Officer Kerrick’s defense amount to the he was in fear of his life defense—similar to the defense used by George Zimmerman after his unjustified killing of Trayvon Martin?
We are often told police are there to “protect and serve.” But do most police departments “protect and serve” the interests of African-Americans, or, do they perceive African-Americans as the main miscreants of the criminal class? Why would Officer Kerrick fire on Mr. Ferrell, who was unarmed? Why is it police all over the nation adopt the shoot-Black-men-first-then-ask-questions-later mentality? Why is the police murder of African-American males so accepted by many in White America?
Some will tell us the same thing we always hear in these kinds of cases: it’s just an unfortunate “tragedy.” Black life is seemingly so cheap that time and again we tolerate this egregious excuse from those who minimize the slow genocide police policy that was implemented against African-American men decades ago. Does White America’s silence on the murders and killings of Blacks represent their acceptance of the brutal and deadly violence police use against us?
It’s hard to come to any other conclusion. When the New York City Council correctly overrode former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of bills enacted to arrest the routine, racist practice of Stop-and-Frisk the mayor—and others, including prominent press persons—claimed crime would spiral out of control. They brazenly say this even in the face of facts that illustrated the failure of this odious police procedure. Some are still stroking fears—often in a subliminal manner—about the supposed inherent criminality of African-Americans.
This from some who are the offspring of those coming out of overcrowded European penal institutions into the so-called “New World” to practice their greed and genocidal criminality on Indigenous Americans and Africans. White privilege is, largely, a consequence of the ill-gotten gains received at the expense of brutalized African slaves and Native Americans. Yet the “underclass” is portrayed as “lazy” and deserving of its status.
Unfortunately, America since the days of Slavery has perpetuated the false fiction that African-Americans are genetically criminally-inclined. This tactic continues to the present time—and is done to justify the criminal conduct Whites have engaged in since Slavery against Blacks. Today, they use manufactured studies and statistics to insinuate that Blacks, left unchecked, would represent a criminal “menace” to the supposed “law and order” of White society.
This thinking lays the groundwork for the national harassing—and outright murder—of our people by law enforcement officials, and even by regular citizens whenever someone perceives us as being “threatening.”
Criminologists and police frequently talk about crime in the Black community, while, removing the influence institutional racism and white supremacy has in creating the atmosphere of crime in Black environs to begin with. For example, Mayor Bloomberg used crime in Black communities as a justification for why he said Stop-and-Frisk was essential to controlling crime in New York City.
The fact is: crime in the African-American communities must be seen within the historical context of American racism and economic deprivation. But political phonies never address the poverty—created by structural white supremacy—that drives the vast majority of the crime in Black communities.
The reality is: Black men can basically be murdered pretty much with impunity anytime in America because of White bigotry—and the only excuse needed is invoking the idea that someone felt fearful by the presence of a Black man. Police all over America know this. George Zimmerman also knew this when he shot Trayvon Martin dead.
The “threatening” Black male tale is the one of the most hypocritical, counterintuitive aspects of American racism—since, Black males are by far the ones who suffer and are killed and murdered because of their color, by Whites. Yet, many Whites have been shown, in a multitude of studies, to believe that Blacks represent a criminal physical threat to their wellbeing. An example of this is shown in the response of the woman who called police and told them Mr. Ferrell was trying to break into her house.
It is certainly true one doesn’t often have someone stumble upon their door after 2 a.m. in the morning. But, why was this woman so quick to assume Mr. Ferrell was trying to rob her? Nearly the exact same thing happened recently to a young Black Michigan woman who was shot in a similar manner under similar circumstances after she was seeking help after an accident.
The other canard we sometimes hear, when it is shown that some police officer acted with clear racial malice, is that that particular officer represents a “bad apple.” This lie is used to try to white-wash the devious, devilish, machinations of those who enact police policy. The truth is far uglier because these same people create the atmosphere of prejudiced policing perceptions that lead to the brutalization and murder of African-Americans.
When these police policy-makers cleverly concoct racist profiling depictions of African-Americans as a criminal class aren’t they giving their police license to kill us?
If that isn’t the case, why was Amadou Diallo shot at 41 times?
Why was Sean Bell shot at 50 times? Why was Oscar Grant shot in the back? Why was Ramarley Graham killed in his bathroom? Why, were people like Kimani Gray, Patrick Dorismond, Timothy Stansfield, Ousmane Zongo, Eleanor Bumpers, Anthony Baez and Michael Stewart killed—if not for the institutionally ingrained racist culture embedded in American police departments?