On Wednesday, a New York Grand Jury made the decision to not indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner. Pantaleo’s use of an NYPD prohibited choke-hold resulted in the death of the unarmed African-American Garner in July.
On the same day, NYPD Police Chief Joanne Jaffe tweeted #Wehearyou, a new hashtag aimed at strengthening community and police relations.
They are clearly having difficulty with hearing the words “I can’t breathe.”
Pantaleo’s Grand Jury decision arrives just one week after the decision by a Missouri Grand Jury to not indict another white officer, Darren Wilson. Wilson killed unarmed 18 year-old African-American Michael Brown in August, just one month after the death of Garner.
A Propublica.org study from October analyzed 1,217 police shootings resulting in death between 2010 and 2012 of victims aged 15-19 (Michael Brown was 18). Black citizens were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while whites at 1.47 per million.
The study also showed that of the 15 teenagers shot while “fleeing arrest” between 2010 and 2012, 14 were black.
What was very troubling about the most popular videos and quotes virally spread on social media in the wake of the Ferguson protests is that they ignored or diminished the importance of race altogether when discussing the recent string of very public deaths of unarmed black males.
New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson’s Facebook post on the subject of Ferguson went so viral, it was as if the Umbrella Corporation manufactured it.
You have likely seen his post from a Facebook share by your crazy Tea Party-loving Uncle or your liberal co-worker, because Watson’s post manages to sympathize with both sides of the issue.
However, Watson completely loses me when he states that “ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem.”
I’m pretty certain it was actually a skin issue that resulted in the death of John Crawford III.
Crawford, a black male, was walking around an Ohio Wal-Mart with an unloaded BB gun he picked up from the store’s toy aisle. It was a phone call from Ronald Ritchie (a caucasian) that alerted authorities to a “gentleman walking around with a gun in the store.” Just a quick reminder, Ohio is an open-carry state.
Ritchie went on to embellish his story, claiming that Crawford was “pointing it at people” and “loading it right now.”
A security camera video of the shooting shows Crawford holding the BB gun to his side, with the muzzle facing the floor while he is on his cell phone. Crawford is seemingly shot instantly when two white police officers arrive on site. There is no sound on the footage, making it impossible to tell if the officers yelled a command to Crawford.
The officers involved were not indicted by a Grand Jury. As of this writing, Ronald Ritchie has also not been charged with making a false alarm (which is a crime under Ohio law).
Crawford’s case is even more frustrating due to the constant barrage of images from the open carry movement in stores and restaurants. For example, the image below of two fully armed chuckleheads standing in a Target baby section.
Ohio Governor John Kasich has publicly supported the announcement of a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the Crawford shooting.
In addition to Watson’s post, you may have seen your Fox News viewing cousin share the video of Frederick Wilson II.
Although Watson uses sin as a scapegoat, Frederick Wilson II blames the members of the black population themselves.
“The thing that nobody talked about with Trayvon Martin; in this day and age why is that when people see a young black man the first thing they think of is what’s he doing? Is he up to no good? He looks like trouble. You know why that is? Because that’s our perception. Because that’s the perception that we keep giving people. The way we act, the way we carry ourselves.”
If I were being stalked in the rain at night by a man I did not recognize on the way to my father’s fiancee’s house, you can be damn sure my body language would not be one of relaxation.
Wilson must have also missed Rashid Polo’s excellent Vine videos, showing first hand how he is profiled by employees when he enters multiple convenience stores.
So, what do we do?
“The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel.” Benjamin Watson reveals at the end of his now famous Facebook post.
This is how uncomfortable Americans are with discussing the issue of race (regardless of color). The biggest viral posting currently on social media completely omits it as even part of the solution. There is not only no mention of acceptance, but it also rejects the very things that can actually help.
We NEED education, exposure and transparency, but most of all, white America needs empathy. Empathy for what the black experience is in this country, because it is simply not the same.
Our nation has “healed” more times than Wolverine at this point. We don’t need to “heal”; we need to change.
President Obama has unveiled plans to ask Congress for $75 million to cover the costs of 50,000 body cameras for local police officers. The President has also created a new task force concerning modern police tactics. The task force will submit their first report of recommendations in February.
My greatest hope for change though lies with the passionate protesters of Ferguson and across the nation.
Attorney General Eric Holder addressed it perfectly as a group of disruptive protestors were peacefully led out during his speech in Atlanta on Monday:
“Now there will be a tendency on the part of some to condemn what we just saw, but we should not. What we saw there was a genuine expression of concern and involvement. And it is through that level of involvement, that level of concern, and I hope a level of perseverance and commitment, that change ultimately will come. And so let me be clear, let me be clear, I ain’t mad atcha, all right?”
I ain’t mad atcha, I can hear you.