The news of yet another Black man dead after an encounter with the police was heartbreaking and exhausting. I vowed to stop listening to and watching coverage about Mr. Freddie Gray and watch reruns of Columbo, but that was not to be. Driving home on Thursday night, I listened to MSNBC and then watched FoxNews when I got home.
When the Rodney King verdicts came down in 1992, I was in my office in downtown San Francisco (back in the day when nonprofits could still afford to rent there). The Simi Valley jury acquitted the police officers who had brutally beaten him- a beating caught on camera. I wanted to pick up my office chair and throw it through the window. My rage and hurt and pain were so deep that violence that would destroy my comfortable office seemed to be a logical reaction. So when you see young people on the streets of Baltimore and Ferguson and Oakland acting in violent ways, remember that this was my reaction as well.
Now we read about a reported leak that Mr. Gray inflicted his injury on himself; that he broke his own spine. Please!!!!! We remember that the officer who murdered Walter Scott in North Carolina said he feared for his life. The video showed that was a lie.
In 1979, an elderly Black man named Charlie James was shot dead in his bed in his apartment in the Bayview area of San Francisco. The initial story from the SF police was that Mr. James had run into his room and fired a gun at the police. The coroner’s report indicated that the trajectory of the bullets indicated that Mr. James was in his bed with his hands held up in a defensive manner. We later learned that Mr. James was unable to walk. He had to use a basket that he lowered down to the street via a pulley. The neighborhood kids bought groceries for Papa Charlie. Mr. James running into his room and shooting at the police?! More lies.
Most of you reading this know that when some people get backed into a corner, people will sometimes lie. Black folks and our allies now know that some police will lie to try to avoid the truth being told about this unending number of deaths of unarmed Black men at the hands of law enforcement.
Baltimore attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr .told the truth as he traced this abuse back to the days when police enforced slavery, when police enforced Jim Crow, when Richard Nixon’s “law and order” was code for “Hey, white people. We want you to be afraid of Black people and vote us into power.”
I cried again when the announcer mentioned Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray. I think of how many in this country still do not think of us as human beings. We are people who can be shot and there will be no consequences.
Mr. Murphy made a great point that keeps me from falling into the pit of despair. He said that young people are now seeing with their own eyes what many of us have known for years, namely that there are lawless police who feel they can abuse Black people with no possibility of accountability. It is not just young people who are seeing these horrors with their own eyes. Maybe a new day has dawned in America. Democrats and Republicans–Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul–are united in efforts to reform the criminal justice system. Perhaps change is on the way.
Change has arrived!!!!
I cried again when Marilyn Mosby, the Black woman State’s Attorney, daughter of two police officers, stood up and promised that the young people of Baltimore will get justice. The most amazing exchange when she was answering questions. Big thanks to my friend and ace reporter, Jeff Woods from Nashville.
Reporter: How can we be sure what happened to Freddie Gray won’t happen again?
Reporter: How do we get that?
Mosby: You’re getting it now.