Re-defining the Narrative

Written by BG Howard

April 10, 2024

As youngsters, children are taught police are “good” people and encouraged that they should turn to them when in trouble or danger.  A badge is supposed to represent an upstanding individual who seeks to enforce the law which is perceived as being designed to equally regulate the behaviors of all U.S. residents.  It’s not the responsibility of police to decide a person’s guilt or innocence; only to enforce the law.  Note:  The premise of this column isn’t intended to be “anti” anyone but designed to simply “lift a mirror.”

Unfortunately, dynamics of the law enforcement/citizen relationship has become increasingly strained during recent years.  In USA Today’s March 29, 2018 issue the editorial board highlighted the fact “In Sacramento and elsewhere, unarmed Black men continue to die at the hands of law enforcement officers.”  The report specified that in the space of a 10 day period, two more unarmed Black men died at the hands of police — one in Sacramento, another in Houston — and two Baton Rouge police officers escaped being charged in the 2016 shooting death of another Black man. 

Occurrences such as these had began to resuscitate anger and frustrations previously thrust into the national spotlight in 2014.  The disproportionate number of unarmed Black men killed by police had, again, become the focus.  Stephon Clark; unarmed in the back yard of his grandmother’s Sacramento home Sunday, March 11, 2018 was shot twenty times by two officers of the city police.  The officers noted the presence of a gun but only a cell phone was found at the scene.  Even still, Timothy Davis, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, declared “the shooting was legally justified” and asserted Clark “took a shooting stance and pointed an object at the officers.”  Ironically, according to reports, one of the officers commented minutes after the shooting that Clark “kind of approached us hands out and then fell down.” Nothing about a “shooting stance.”  Another question: Why did body cam audio go mute minutes after the shooting?

Earlier shootings had compelled mobilization of the Black Lives Matter movement which prompted, then president, Barack Obama and the Justice Department to ease tensions by initiating investigations into a number of the incidents.  There were findings of systemic racial bias amidst several cities scrutinized but Americans only gave notice to the fact for a very short time before the nation’s concerns more-or-less dissipated.

To that point in 2018, there had been 263 fatal shootings by police throughout the United States which amounted to roughly three every day and would have easily eclipsed 1,000 by that year’s end.  Simply put, if Black men had continued experiencing the same unfortunate consequences at the hands of police, why would they not have moved to modify the behavior manifesting those results? 

Instead of giving officers any reason to suspect or question their behavior and aiding in the “justification” for firing their weapons, Black men have to take it upon themselves to diffuse the situation.  What can an officer do if, for example, he comes upon a man who is already kneeling with both hands in the air or prostrate on the ground with hands out to the side of his body?  If seated in a vehicle, it would be wise to lower the driver’s window and extend both hands outside the car.  There’s no impropriety in having any available passenger record or video what transpires and even inform the officer of such activity as he approaches.  An officer who is simply executing his duties shouldn’t take offense to having the incident fully documented. At some point, if society isn’t going to be responsible enough to do anything to protect the Black man we have to take the initiative to protect ourselves.  This shouldn’t be perceived as suggestive of anything outrageous or illegal but a matter of applying a little “good old common sense.”  Many argue that they shouldn’t have to enact such extreme measures and some list the actions as demeaning.  Realistically, what you’re looking at won’t change until you change the way you look at it.  Understand that it would serve a person far better to list his grievances in a court of law instead of one more family grieving at yet another funeral.  I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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