Stoking the Fire

It really bothers me how certain people are trying to promote the racial divide in this country. It seems like everything is racialized and never for the better. When George Floyd was killed the world was sure that it was racially motivated. Officer Derek Chauvin was instantly branded a racist cop who was part of a larger system of white supremacy. Now everyone is in agreement that Floyd’s death was tragic and that Chauvin was in the wrong for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes. But nothing in the original 8 minute clip that circulated over social media showed racism. People simply saw a black man die at the hand of a white police officer and they automatically supplied the motive.

After the full body cam footage was released we now know that there was no racial component to Floyd’s needless death. The officers involved were fairly cordial to Floyd throughout the ordeal. Floyd was clearly under the influence of something and he resisted arrest for a prolonged period of time. Chauvin restrained him in a way that would make him compliant. I personally believe that Chauvin stayed in that position for so long out of frustration. I believe he was absolutely wrong to do so. But I don’t believe for a second that it had anything at all to do with George Floyd being black.

Fast forward to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. The CNN headline reads “Wisconsin police shoot a Black man as his children watch from a vehicle, attorney says.” CBS News has “Police in Wisconsin shoot Black man in back multiple times, sparking protests” I’m shocked that it doesn’t say “White Wisconsin police shoot a Black man…” The first line of the CBS story is “A Black man was hospitalized in serious condition after police shot him several times in the back as he opened the door of a parked vehicle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.” The CNN article’s first sentence is, “Two Wisconsin police officers were on leave Monday as state authorities investigate why a Black man was shot multiple times in the back as he entered the driver’s side door of an SUV, officials said.”

What does Blake’s color have to do with his being shot? The truncated video of the incident doesn’t seem to show Blake being shot for being black; it appears that he was shot for reaching into his car when officers had guns drawn on him. They don’t know what he’s reaching for.

And yet we have people like Governor Phil Murphy (undoubtedly the worst NJ governor of my lifetime) stoking the fire by saying the following on Twitter:

Last night, in Wisconsin, we witnessed another shooting of a black man by a law enforcement officer. It is reported that Jacob Blake – who was shot in the back seven times in front of his fiance and children – was unarmed.

How many times does this nation have to endure this?

We pray for Jacob Blake’s recovery from his wounds.

We pray for his family, who themselves are also victims of a shocking and traumatic event.

We pray for a full reckoning of the systemic and inherent racism of our society, and for its elimination.

We pray for justice.

Why begin by noting Blake’s color? Why default to “systemic and inherent racism” with regard to this incident? Where does that even begin to come into play? And Murphy isn’t consistent in this regard. This past Friday (Aug 21, 2020) a young woman named Vernetta McCray was shot to death in front of her home in Trenton, NJ. Ms. McCray was a state employee who was doing some work on her front porch when she was hit by what appears to be a stray bullet after more than 20 shots were fired nearby. I have not heard that the shooter(s) were arrested but when somebody gets shot in Trenton it’s almost always by a black man. And what did Governor Murphy say in response to this shooting?

This tragedy is yet another reminder of the toll that senseless gun violence takes on our communities. Our prayers are with Vernetta, her family, and her loved ones at this difficult time.

How come Murphy didn’t note that Ms. McCray was black? Why no prayers for the end of “systemic and inherent racism?” How come Murphy doesn’t ask how many times the nation has to endure these senseless acts of gun violence? Why doesn’t he specify that senseless gun violence is taking a toll on our black communities? Why is the senseless death of a law abiding, upstanding citizen like Ms. McCray not elevated to the same heights as the death of someone like Jacob Blake who actively resisted arrest (so far as we can see from the footage circulating) and reached into his vehicle when officers had their guns trained on him? Also, in the short story on Ms. McCray I failed to read anything in the headline or body of the story about her being black. I wonder why her race didn’t matter to the reporter.

It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t fit the narrative. It doesn’t encourage the racial divide in this nation. It doesn’t incite riots. Black people killing other black people doesn’t “matter” to the Black Lives Matter crowd. Black lives only matter when they’re taken by white police officers apparently. Don Lemon told Terry Crews as much when he (Crews) dared to broach the topic during an interview in early July. Lemon told Crews to go start his own “All Black Lives Matter” movement if he’s concerned with the violence in black communities. These politicians and media personalities should be ashamed of themselves for how they push this narrative, a false narrative I’d add.

The narrative is that white cops are roaming about like roaring lions looking for black lives to devour. The reality is that they’re not. More white lives are taken by police officers every year than black lives (see the Washington Post police shootings database for exact numbers) but that doesn’t fit the narrative. It doesn’t receive media attention. The facts don’t support the narrative so the facts are never reported. Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr.’s 2017 study “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force” shows that “on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls” (39).

So again I say shame on the media and the politicians for stoking this fire of racial division. It doesn’t help and it’s simply not true.



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