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When Will It Be Safe To Be Black In America?

Cassandra Harris-Lockwood

By: Cassandra Harris-Lockwood

So, America has finally managed to criminalize the condition of being Black. Black people had previously assumed that once we were able to provide proof that these terrible things were really happening at the hands of the police, the challenge of the black person’s word against the word of the police was to finally be remedied. We were wrong.

Profiling or “driving while being black” has gotten so bad in America for black men, especially, that its pretty much breathing while being Black can become a punishable offense. Punishable by death.

Running away, walking away, on the ground with two on top, standing with hands up, lying down in a choke hold, sitting in your car pulled over to the side of the road and following instructions given by the officer who hasn’t even arrested you, it all ends in death and thus far exoneration by the juries in all of these cases.

Prior to Philando Castiles untimely death a long list of victims have been buried and are being mourned by their families. The only form of justice has come by means of civil suits where the accused jurisdictions paid out monies to grieving families for their relative’s deaths.

Here is a short list. A sampling. There are many more not listed.

4/30/14 Dontre Hamilton (Milwaukee)shot dead from 14 bullets for disturbing the peace… 

7/17/14 Eric Garner (New York)killed from an illegal choke-hold for selling loose cigarettes…

8/05/14 John Crawford (Dayton, Ohio)– killed by gun fire in a Wal-Mart by cops (he was holding a BB-gun)

8/09/14 Mike Brown Jr. (Ferguson, Missouri) killed by officer Darren Wilson who alleged he went for his gun. He was not armed…

8/11/14 Ezell Ford (Florence, California)25 yr old mentally ill, unarmed man shot three times once in the back.

8/12/14 Dante Parker (Victorville, California) 36 yr old father of five was killed by multiple shocks from a taser in San Bernadino County custody.

11/13/14 Tanisha Anderson (Cleveland, Ohio)died as a result of blunt force trauma, from being slammed on the pavement…

11/20/14 Akai Gurley (New York , New York)shot in a dimly lit stairwell. The Police claimed accidental discharge…

11/22/14 Tamir Rice (Cleveland , Ohio)12 yr old boy shot and killed playing with a toy gun in a park…

12/02/14 Rumain Brisbon (Phoenix, Arizona) shot and killed by an officer that claims his pill bottle looked like a gun…

12/30/14 Jerame Reid (Bridgeton, New Jersey)fearing weapon was in the glove compartment the police opened up on Reid, who was a passenger, when he exited the vehicle…

3/06/15 Tony Robinson (Madison, Wisconsin)– officers responding to a disturbing the peace call shot the 19 yr old three times after a brief struggle. He was unarmed…

3/31/15 Philip White (Vineland, New Jersey)died while in custody after being attacked by a canine unit…

4/02/15 Eric Harris (Tulsa, Oklahoma)shot by an auxiliary officer who says he mistook his gun for a taser…

4/04/15 Walter Scott (North Charleston, South Carolina)- Officer Michael Slager claimed Scott took his stun gun, video proved otherwise, Scott was shot in the back, running away…

4/19/15 Freddie Gray (Baltimore) died of a spinal cord injury after being picked up for ‘reckless eyeballing’ an on-duty officer…

Only two of the listed cases resulted in a conviction.

Eric Harris, the victim from Tulsa, was awarded a modicum of justice through the conviction of Robert Bates, the auxiliary officer that shot him, for manslaughter with a four year sentence.

The second conviction came from the death of Akai Gurley. Officer Peter Liang was found guilty by a jury for manslaughter and official misconduct for his gross indifference to the dying man.

Basically he did nothing to mend the situation he had caused.In all of these cases the officers claimed to be in fear of their lives. This has come to be the ‘get out of jail free card’ for these officers.

How did it come to be that the very condition of being a Black man is so terrifying as to trigger a hail of bullets? Perhaps it was the dumping of Crack Cocaine into Black neighborhoods by the CIA back in the 80’s then vilifying the newly created crack heads, crack whores and crack babies?

Then making the penalty for possession of crack 10 times that of powdered cocaine, the choice of the White urban professional? The Mass Incarceration of Black men and their return to their communities over the years, has brought with them the violence, hatred, and short fuses of the prison culture. That and the denial of good jobs and education to these men has taken its toll in transforming American Black culture to reflect prison culture.

Like most Police shootings of Black Men and Women, Philando Castile’s sobering and tragic death was recently approved by a jury of Americans. There is no doubt that this country has been impacted by this cultural distortion and must address its racial bias.

It is very interesting that in the same week Otto Warmbeir was released and died upon returning home, was the trial and exoneration of Castile’s killer. Otto Warmbeir was goofing around pranking while visiting North Korea. Not a good idea.

I remember hitchhiking through Europe in the early 70’s. While in Spain under Franco’s fascist regime the thought never crossed my mind to prank anybody or anything. Being jailed in a foreign country was the stuff of mythic nightmare travel tales. We’re talking military men at all points with big machines guns and if you were driving and they pulled you over and said they wanted money you just asked how much and handed it over. Otto Warmbeir was an unfortunate victim of his own white American privilege, not just the fascist regime of Kim Jung-Il. Warmbeir couldn’t imagine a world where his smile, his station, his money, his white manliness couldn’t get him preferential treatment. Philando Castile couldn’t imagine a world any other way.

Castile was pulled over a total of 49 times in the past 13 years. Philando Castile was a cafeteria worker and the Mr. Rogers of the lunch room and the children loved him. He memorized the name of every child who went through the line. He was a family man and said “sir” to the man who shot him dead before his significant other and their daughter while following the officer’s orders.America has to come to terms with this violation of laws, ethics, morals and justice, all based on race.

No longer can America claim “moral high ground” when it comes to human rights. Our own backyard smells of death and bodies buried in shallow graves.

I personally know the terror of being under attack by the police. I was beaten up village cop in Clinton when I was a student at Kirkland College in 1972. My offense was driving while being Black. The experience of being snatched and dragged and knocked around was bad enough. I was hysterical. I ended up handcuffed on the ground with my hands behind my back then thrown into the back of the patrol car face down on the seat. Back then I was agile enough to get my hands in front of myself and escape out of the car. I ran right into this huge man who grabbed me and threw me back into the car then Police Chief Schmidt drove away with me.

It has occurred to me over the years and some lately, had I actually been able to run, Schmidt could have shot me in the back. In order for we Americans to get out of this racial divide its going to take the specific intention of White people. Black folks don’t have the power or the influence or the expertise to make it all happen.

That’s not to say that Blacks don’t have plenty to make right in our own ranks, but after hundreds of years of slavery, perverse oppression’s, denial of justice and rights, any group of people will be distorted and damaged. As there have been since our country was founded, there are plenty of White people out there who are dangerously opposed to Black folks progressing in any way. But there must be recompense to unravel centuries of preferring White people and relegating Blacks to “less thans.”

Education and economic opportunity will be vital to this turn around process, but just think about what an even more incredible nation we will have once America can embrace the incredible gifts that Black people can bring to the table as full and equal citizens. No more maligned and feared, no more hated and hunted, no more despised and suspected. Some little Vietnamese boys visiting the family across from the community garden on Linwood Place were shouting, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,” at our Lead Gardener, a Black man. When he told me about it I walked across the street when I saw the mother. I told her what her guest children had said and explained, “These words are very hurtful. Do not the let your children speak in this way. You came to America to find peace and have a new life. This is our country. We have no peace. We have nowhere to go. They kill us here. We have nowhere to go.”

Utica Phoenix Staff
Utica Phoenix Staff
The Utica Phoenix is a publication of For The Good, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) in Utica, NY. The Phoenix is an independent newsmagazine covering local news, state news, community events, and more. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and also check out Utica Phoenix Radio at 95.5 FM/1550 AM, complete with Urban hits, morning talk shows, live DJs, and more.

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