In 1964, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to sweep the country, the arc of justice needs to bend more quickly in the case of Rayshard Brooks — the young African American man shot dead by a white policeman of the same age in the parking lot of a Wendy’s drive-thru in Atlanta.
The untimely death of Mr. Brooks, who leaves behind a grieving family and a stunned nation, was clearly unlawful and cannot be tolerated. His murder by police in an unmistakably malevolent manner is evidenced by graphic video footage, buttressed by police rules of engagement for the use of deadly force.
The Atlanta district attorney (DA) charged the fired killer cop with felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and nine other counts of illegal conduct. The second officer involved in the case has agreed to be a cooperating witness, according to the DA.
This gunning down of Mr. Brooks is especially shocking due to the recent malicious murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other African Americans under false pretense. In essence, an unequivocal message must be sent nationwide and worldwide that such reckless disregard for Black lives by law enforcement cannot and will not stand.
As I write in my latest book, Keepin’ It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America, it is a disappointing reality that many of the indignities (racial and otherwise), as well as differences in perception regarding the history and treatment of Black Americans ominously discussed during the 1960s, still apply today.
This truism represents a clear and present danger for African Americans, particularly young Black men, regarding racially biased law enforcement and a discriminatory criminal justice system.
Waking White America
When it comes to police summarily killing black men, there appears to be no absence of malice in an abundance of cases. The African American community has known and lived in fear of this fact for decades. Now, white America is finally woke! What took so long?
The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, from coast to coast and border to border, appear to show the vast majority of the Americans are mad as hell and won’t take it anymore! This long-overdue sentiment could not have reached a boiling point soon enough, and has led America to an inflection point on issues of racial justice and civil rights in the 21st century.
Now, this national consensus must cause Congress to enact legislation mandating stringent police reforms across the board, including locking up dirty, corrupt cops who kill at will — and throwing away the keys (no parole). Unfortunately, the sad reality for Black America hasn’t changed for generations: Justice delayed is justice denied.
From the perspective of the African American community, the time is unbearably overdue for the unlawful epidemic of blatant police abuse to finally end. The horrendous treatment and disproportionate sentencing of Black people in the criminal justice system must stop.
Put simply, we are mad as hell and can’t take it anymore.
Enough is enough!
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired!
One national reform that should be implemented ASAP is life sentences without parole for any police officer charged with, and convicted of, unlawfully murdering Black people — in accordance with the law and bedrock principle of equal justice.
As I write in my book, the fact is that if white people were routinely and randomly subjected to police violence and were gunned down in the street by law enforcement at the duplicative rate of Black and Hispanic people, there would be calls for congressional demonstrations and cries of protests so loud that it would result in political suicide for any politician or police force who dared to ignore such a rallying cry and decisive message. . . An equally formidable message must become a reality for people of color as well.
Thanks to the persistent tenacity of Black Lives Matter, buttressed by the support of white Americans of goodwill and high morality, such a moment in time may have finally arrived. But the question remains whether a Republican-led Senate, in cahoots with President Trump, will actually heed the call by seriously reforming a racially biased criminal justice system. Don’t hold your breath…
Rogue Cops Running Rampant
Every citizen is entitled to the constitutional protections of due process and equal justice under law — without bias by law enforcement, whether overt or implicit, based on race or other discriminatory factors.
No American citizen — Black, White, Brown or otherwise — deserves to be unjustly murdered at the hands of out of control cops with loose trigger fingers.
When I first heard of this latest, senseless demise of a fellow Black American, my instincts were to spew a slew of profanities. However, I decided to feverishly engage on social media with fellow outraged citizens in response to the latest string of massacring Black bodies. The passion displayed online has been intense. Predictably, there are those irrational actors attempting to perversely justify the murder of Mr. Brooks.
The usual litany of commentary includes (but is not limited to) the following:
- He should not have been inebriated,
- He should have been compliant,
- He should have responded more coherently,
- He should not have failed a sobriety test,
- He should not have grabbed an officer’s taser, and
- He should not have attempted to flee the scene…
The list of lame excuses to justify the murder of Mr. Brooks is endless. In addition to the aforementioned examples, there were even more delusional and disturbed reasons that critics of Mr. Brooks proffered for justifying his death. It’s a sad commentary on humanity, to be sure.
My response to White supremacists, police apologists, and other derelict segments of emotionally callous “human beings” is this: Go to hell, you fool! If your personal character and morality are so vile, unfeeling, gutless, and heartless to even try to justify the brutal death of a young Black man (or any man or woman regardless of race) then I have little regard for what your demented mind thinks or believes.
Quite frankly, it’s evident that your racist attitudes toward Black people are less than amiable, to put it mildly and politely. Moreover, it’s evident you have long concluded that Black lives do NOT matter and Black people are less than human. This is a shameful and bigoted mindset which most Americans soundly reject.
Driving While Black
Yes, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is indeed a serious crime. However, even more deadly — as borne out by data — is driving while Black (DWB) generally, and drunken driving while Black specifically.
That being said, many Americans are routinely arrested for drunk driving and still manage to live and see the next day. The truth is that failing a sobriety test, and running from police, should not result in the death of any human being — particularly a person who was already frisked for deadly weapons by police.
If running from police (without a deadly weapon) along with being drunk was an acceptable standard for murder, the graveyards would be filled with millions of people across racial lines. Let’s also recall that Mr. Brooks fell asleep in his car at a fast-food drive-thru — not exactly a mass murder like those of deranged white gunmen.
But he then calmly and compliantly moved his car to a parking space at the direction of the police. Yet despite his lack of coherence, Mr. Brooks was acting in a calm, reasonable, and compliant manner for reportedly 30 minutes prior to the cop’s unannounced and surprising attempt to cuff him.
The underlying and persistent question at issue is why do people of color (in particular Black people) continually have their lives brutally snatched away by the very law enforcement officers who have sworn an oath to protect the public?
All members of the public deserve the same respect, benefit of the doubt, and police protection regardless of race, skin color, ethnicity, gender or other potentially discriminatory factors (whether conscious or unconscious).
Viewing the press conference of Mr. Brooks’ family, with his grieving widow holding her youngest child, passionately describe that the pain this family has endured is nothing short of heartbreaking. This pain, anguish, despair, and duress won’t end anytime soon.
There will likely be many more heartbreaking moments as this case moves through the justice system. Yet one meaningful reform to expedite this meandering process is providing district attorneys with the power to indict police without a grand jury when murder is at issue, as the Atlanta DA has noted.
It should not be surprising that the family was so overcome by raw emotion due to the death of Mr. Brooks that the live press conference had to be cut short.
Second Class Citizens
The fact is, once again, there was no reason for police to murder Mr. Brooks.
Yes, he fled on foot. While it was not the most sagacious act to take, he was no doubt astute enough to know that law enforcement and Black people — in particular, Black men — do not have the most cordial relationship.
In fact, let’s keep it real: African Americans never appear to be granted the “benefit of the doubt” for which so many privileged Whites so easily take for granted in police confrontations. Rather, Blacks are treated as second class citizens by law enforcement — and that’s if they’re lucky.
The presumption of “guilty until proven innocent” by many police toward Black Americans does not comport with equal justice or “color blind” law. To the contrary, racial injustice and discrimination is the norm. Black America knows this too well. African American history has harshly proven time and time again that our lives matter less than others, at least in the mendacious minds of White bigots. Therefore, should it really be surprising that many Blacks have nightmarish visions of harsh mistreatment and wanton brutality by police (whether inside or outside of a prison cell)?
This undisputed truth — coupled with the fact that Mr. Brooks was disoriented — no doubt resulted in his decision to “make a break” by any means necessary.
While not ideal, such a scenario is understandable for Black Americans who have suffered generations of police abuse and brutality without any legal recourse — much less an apology from bad cops who intentionally and recklessly trample upon our constitutional, civil and human rights as a matter of standard practice.
Overzealous White police must refrain from targeting and treating Black men and women as second class citizens.
As I wrote in Keepin’ It Real, no race of people have a monopoly on devious or deviant behavior. That being said, when it comes to being accused of crimes, Black people, in particular Black men, more often than not are usually denied the benefit of the doubt and, rather, are routinely seen as guilty until proven innocent.
Again, truth be told, Mr. Brooks posed no threat or imminent danger to anyone around him or the larger society.
In this situation, the police officers on the scene had Mr. Brook’s driver’s license. They even had his car. The officers could have called for backup, as needed. Thus even if Mr. Brooks had escaped, the police surely could have tracked him down and made an arrest without extenuating circumstances (much less killing him). Put simply, Mr. Brooks did not have to die and should not have died that night. He had his entire life ahead of him.
Ardent police supporters like to argue that people are always overly critical of police officers until they actually need them. Yet this is faulty logic. Here’s why: I can be critical of certain aspects of the medical profession, for example, but if I’m suffering from any sort of physical ailment it would be in my best interest to consult a physician. Similarly, certain people may lament certain segments of the legal profession. But if these critics find themselves on the wrong side of the law, they should likely secure the services of an attorney.
Some academics, my line of work, may be stereotyped as far left radical elements intent on indoctrinating students with socialist and Marxist ideology. But this doesn’t mean young people should not attend and graduate from college. All this is not to say that we should refrain from being critical of doctors, lawyers or professors, but please recognize it’s not an either/or proposition. And the same holds true for the police. You can offer constructive criticism on one hand, while appreciating and valuing them on the other.
Black people know and acknowledge that police officers have a stressful and dangerous job, as many policemen and women (from officers to chiefs) are people of color. However, there are several professions that have equal or greater levels of stress and danger compared to the police.
That being said, having a stressful and dangerous job does not absolve police from behaving in a manner that is humane and responsible toward fellow citizens.
The fact is that law enforcement has a serious problem as it relates to Black people in America. It is an immediate problem that must be addressed. These reckless and callous shootings of Black bodies cannot continue unabated.
That’s why the killer cop who murdered Rayshard Brooks must be sent to jail for the rest of his life. That would force him to think long and hard about the heinous and unforgivable crime he has committed in a job based on upholding public trust and enforcing the law within the letter of the law.
While the death penalty is on the table in this case, that would only be a quick and easy out for a bad cop. Therefore, life in prison without parole is the most suitable penalty for police in this case and similarly situated ones involving unjustified murder of citizens.
Yes, by all means, allow due process to play out. But then, lock up this grievous killer cop for life, and don’t forget to throw away the key.
Previously published on medium.com
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