Stirring the Mind into Thought

With the verdict given yesterday in the Oscar Grant case in which the officer, Johannes Mershelee who shot Grant in the back while handcuffed, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, I felt compelled to write this.

When you hear rappers or bands (NWA, Dead Prez, Rage Against the Machine, Bone, Thugs-n-Harmony, J Dilla, Ice-T, etc.) say F*** the Police, there is a reason behind it. Black People, and even other people of color, have never had a positive relationship with the police. For some people who may live in a bubble, they think the police is there to serve and protect them, but for the majority of people of color, it is more of living in a police state where they treat us like criminals before we even do anything. In the eyes of the cops and even America, we are guilty until proven innocent. Police officers usually come at us in a very hostile manner first and we either comply or get hostile back. When it comes to us, the police are rarely reasonable; they see us as attacking them even if we are not. So, even if there are good cops out there or those who are trying to do the right thing, the rest of the bad bunch ruin it for them. What makes it even worse is that some of the so-called good cops will stand up for the bad cops or remain quiet in solidarity or fear even when an injustice has occurred. You know cause cops are there to “serve and protect.”

So let me give you a little historical background on our relationship with the police. During slavery, when slaves tried running away, they had dogs and slave owners chasing them. They were told that they had drapetomania because they could not see any reason why a slave would run away (rolls eyes). When slavery ended, the same white people who owned them need another way to control black people. This where localized police departments and forces come in. Before, there was no such thing as police departments, only national militias, but with giving black people their freedom meant fear of retaliation for white owners. So, coming up with the stereotypes of black criminality, black rage, and black hyper-sexuality to create a fear of black people in general led to local police departments, Jim Crow laws and even the rise of the KKK again. Just watch the movie, DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, to understand further (below).

watch?v=vPxRIF1c2fI and

Black Wall Street- Tulsa Riots- Gathering of Deputies and Black Wall Street- Tulsa Riots-Arrest and Confinement Videos

This combination of black fear and black criminality has been around for almost 150 years! As Beauty Nubian from twitter said in her blog post (thoughts-on-police-and-policing and her experience with a cop), for black people, some of the same people who had badges on by day, wore white robes (KKK) at night. While black people have suffered lynching, murders, assassinations, beatings, houses burned down and other horrendous acts, many of the police turned away and refused to arrest those involved. In fact, many times they were the ones involved. It has taken decades for many of these cases to be tried in court and by them many of the perpetrators are dead. Most of the cases still remain cold. To the justice system, a black life meant nothing, but if a black person murdered a white person, a death penalty was knocking at his or her door. These injustices were the norm and still continue today.

So, when I look at a story like the Seattle cop punching a teenage black girl, I am looking at it from a historical perspective. Yes, the girls should not have reacted in the way they did and our community need to learn how to react when police approach them for our own safety. However, I also know that the police have been known to attack us in a violent matter for no reason or a very little reason. They react in an irrational manner and with an irrational fear. Remember, these are teenage girls, not big strong men. The cop even later said that he was aggressive because he felt that he was going to be attacked by the crowd, but if you look at the video, the crowd was calm and trying to keep the incident from escalating. I felt as if he could have handled things a whole lot better, but he did not. If this was a teenage white female, I doubt he would have reacted in the same way and my knowledge of racism and media stereotypes of black people give me that feeling. If he was a regular guy on the street, he would have been charged with assaulting a female. However, since he is a cop, he should not get some sort of punishment (whether that is more police training or a few days without pay) or give an apology too for overreacting as the girl had too. This would show a sign of mutual respect.

He is one of many cops who feel as if their authority excuses them from punishment. Every time a cop does something like this, it is called a “justifiable homicide” or a “justifiable assault.” I am starting to hate those phrases because it implies that a police officer can do no wrong. A police officer is human too and not every time is he or she innocent or only a little bit guilty. And if you need more proof of how I feel, here is a list of incidents involving police brutality:

1)   Move Organization: In the 1970s, a commune including people who lived a back-to-nature lifestyle, were against technology and wore dreadlocks, were continuously harassed by cops. Their home was raided upon twice and the second time, cops tear-gassed it and dropped a bomb, killing 11 (including children). Over sixty other homes in the neighborhood were destroyed by the resulting fires. There still has been no retribution for what happened. Documentary: watch?v=PeTk2b96qE8&feature=related

2)   Anthony Kyser: He had allegedly shoplifted crayons and toothpaste and was kicked out of CVS. An employee followed him out and began choking him until he died. There was an on-duty sheriff, but he did absolutely nothing to stop what was happening. anthony-kyser-cvs-shoplif_n_575063.html

3)   Otto Zehm: He was a mentally challenged janitor who went to get a few items at a local store. Then he was handcuffed by cops, beaten and tasered. Zehm died two days later from injuries. remembering-otto-zehm

4) Jonny Gammage: He was driving his cousin’s car when the police stopped him and pulled him out the car. Then they proceeded in beating him and one stepped on his neck and chest, which suffocated him. He died right on the scene. fact-sheet-new.html

5) Kathryn Johnson: A 92-year-old was the victim of a drug raid and a no-knock arrest warrant. Although cops claimed they had the right house, in actuality they were wrong. Kathryn thought someone was breaking into her house, so she pulled out her weapon and cops began to shoot at her. They left her handcuffed bleeding to death. sentencing-for-cops-who-killed

6) Walter Harvin: He was an Iraq War Veteran and going to see his mother. He did not have a key, so the police handcuffed him. However, the police continuously beat him with a baton (at least 20 times) even after he was subdued. iraq-veteran-beating-tape_n_620853.html

7) Amadou Diallo: He was shot forty-one times by four plain-clothed cops. The cops claimed that he fit the profile of a rapist (who was later caught) and told him they were police. Diallo ran and one of the cops tripped, setting of a gun, as they chased after him. Diallo also had pulled out a wallet, which the cops mistook as a gun. One thing led to another and he was shot, nineteen bullets hitting and killing him. Officers were acquitted, but this case peaked the interest of racial profiling and police brutality and overreaction (contagious shooting in which one cop shoots and other follow him). nypd

8 ) Joshua Daniel Ortiz: In Florida, he was beaten in an elevator and then received a broken nose and a misdemeanor assault charge. Luckily, due to the video, the charges were dropped. MI114633

9) Jordan Miles: The honors students, arts student and violinists, was approached by three police and beaten up (including one of his dreadlocks being ripped out) as he was walking to his grandmother’s home at night. The police claimed that they mistook a bottle for a gun, but Miles said he did not have anything on him.jordan-miles-pittsburgh and jordan-miles-police-brutality

10) Reginald Latson: This teenager has Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) and he likes to walk. So, early one morning, he went for a walk to the library and sat outside under a tree. Someone in a school nearby saw him and called the police saying there was a suspicious person outside the library and that he possibly had a gun (cause everyone knows that black people always have guns). Eight nearby schools were put on lockdown, while policed looked for Latson. Latson had already began walking away because he was tired of waiting for the library to open. When police approached him, Latson said he complied with the search but no gun was found and police say he attacked them. However, Latson says he was attacked first. He was arrested and is now facing charges. teen-with-aspergers-arres_b_610530.html

11) Aiyanna Jones: The 7-year-old was sleeping in her bed, when, as a result of a no-knock arrest, she was killed by a cop’s gun. The police were after a relative who had murdered a teenager a few days before. Also, on site was the A&E show 48 hours. Witnesses say the police overreacted because the cameras were there, throwing a flashbomb into the house and then firing shots, two of which hit Aiyanna in the head and neck killing her. The cop tried to say that his gun went off by accident, but proof shows that there is very little chance that the shot would have hit her by accident. There is a petition online to release the video of what happened from 48 hrs. 100601005 and petition: aiyanajones

12) Lt. Burge: After two decades of torturing hundreds of black men in Chicago, this cop was finally charged with it, even after the statues of limitations had passed. chicago-cop-goes-on-trial-for-torturing-black-men

13) New Orleans cops: Cops in New Orleans are know to be corrupt and have assaulted and murdered people. One such case is the one that happened post-Katrina, in which five cops shot and killed a man and burn his body. Finally, they were arrested and charged with his murder. wireStory?id=10891438

14) Brandon Johnson: The 15-year-old was beaten in Indianapolis after he was already subdued by other cops. He was repeatedly struck in the face and ended up with bruises and a black eye. police-gone-wild-15-year-old-catches.html

15) Melanie Williams: She was pregnant and started bleeding, so she called 911. Afraid she would lose the baby, she decided to drive herself to the hospital. In a hurry, she passed a red light and was stopped by a cop. Instead of escorting her to the hospital like a decent gentleman, he made her wait to get a ticket. Williams drove off and the cop followed her. He rushed in after her in the hospital, tackled her to the floor and stepped on her neck. Then he placed her in the cop car. Fortunately, she was able to get medical help and had the baby 10 days later. top_5_police_blunders_of_the_w_24.php

16) Usman Chaudhry: The 21-year old Pakistani was shot multiple times and killed for carrying a knife, but he was handcuffed when the coroner examined his body. The family was not told about his death until 21 days later.  72157605777928496 and 005273.html

17) Lona Varner: An 86-year-old grandma was tasered by the police in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose after her grandson called 911 for medical assistance. The police officer claimed that she “took a more aggressive posture in her bed.” The officers even handcuffed her grandson when he told them to not taser his grandma. 28330.htm

18) Bernard Monroe: The 73 year-old was shot in front of his home in Louisiana. Monroe was voiceless due to cancer and witnesses said he had no weapon even though police claim he had one no-trial-for-white-cop-who-murdered.html

19) Alonzo Hayward: A mentally challenged man was shot at 59 times by police, 43 actually hitting his body. Alonzo was drinking beforehand and was suicidal holding a shotgun in his hand. In this situation, one would think that the cops knew how to handle a situation like that without killing the man. He did not need to be shot that many times to stop him. us_news-crime_and_courts

20) Oscar Grant: Last year, Oscar Grant along with his friends were subdued by cops in a subway station for involvement in a fight on New Years Eve. The cops had Oscar handcuffed and flat on the ground when Merhsellee came and decided to pull out a gun a shoot Oscar in the back. Oscar screamed “You Shot Me” and was pronounced dead the next morning. Merhselee claimed that he was confused between his “yellow” taser and “black” gun. However, if Oscar was already on the ground and handcuffed, there was no need to use either. Also, Mershellee was known to have a violent past with people he came in contact with (he beat a 41 year old just 6 weeks before), but that was left out of trials. Yesterday, he was found guilty, but only on criminal negligent involuntary manslaughter with possible gun enhancement charge. People all over are visibly angered by the decision of the jury, in which all the black people who were going to be on it were forced off because of some “bias”, while half of the jury had police members in their family. Video: watch?v=UXqGT74vBKk and photo of Mehserle holding the yellow taser taken by Oscar Grant mehs.jpg

Yes, some of these cases resulted in the officer(s) losing their jobs or getting convicted, but there are hundreds that do not get that attention and are not prosecuted. I still do not feel safe and am always suspicious of cops no matter what, and other black people I know feel the same. We are always watching our back thinking a cop will come upon us, just as Richard Pryor describes here (warning, foul language- watch?v=rr5FY-q8MVE&feature=related). I or anyone else like me can get killed or injured for “driving while black,” “walking while black,” and even “sitting while black.” Now I can be calm or innocent in the situation and still be attacked, but imagine for someone who has a hot temper or is guilty, as in those two girls. A lot of these cops are guilty of overkill and reacting without caution. In the end, it feels as if no matter what we do, police will disrespect us. Even worse, not only black people are attacked, people of color across the spectrum are attacked, from Latinos and Asians in immigration raids or hate crimes and Middle-Eastern/South Asians in hate crimes after 9/11 and other terrorism reports. The funny thing is that the some of the same people, who are quick to call people of color terrorists or dangerous criminals, are just as much terrorists and criminals to us too. How can I respect and trust your authority when you do not respect my humanity?

More info.: What Would You Do – Vandalism Part 1 and What Would You Do – Vandalism Part 2 – Watch the two different reactions and how someone called a cop on the black people sleeping in the car instead of the white kids vandalising the car. So, we can add “sleeping while black.”

Biased Role in Cop on Cop Shootings

James Baldwin- A Report From an Occupied Territory

John White Goes to Jail for Trying to Protect his Family

NY Times – A Few Blocks, 4 Years, 52,000 Police Stops

So, that is where I’m coming from….