Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Killer cops: racist patterns

This is Officer Omar Edwards, his partner/wife, and two beautiful children.

A few nights ago, Officer Edwards -- off-duty, and therefore, plainclothed -- sprinted down a street in Harlem, NY -- gun in hand. He pursued a man who had just broken into his car.

"'Police, drop the gun!" [Officer Andrew] Dunton yelled. Edwards stopped about 15 feet away from them and - without a word - turned to face the three cops," who were also plainclothed.

That's when Dunton opened fire six times [at Edwards], officials said."

Three of the bullets Dunton fired pierced Edwards' body... he died in a hospital bed the following night.

Dunton and two other officers had pursued Edwards. All three men said that Edwards looked like a criminal.

He was plainclothed.

He was running down the street.

He had a gun in his hand.

He was black.

What else could he be?

And the officer who gunned him down... he is white.

"The [New York Police] [D]epartment was investigating whether the officers had identified themselves or demanded that Officer Edwards drop his weapon before Officer Dunton opened fire."

As a civilian -- I am left wondering a myriad of things. Even if Dunton hadn't said he was an officer -- and he damn well should have. But even if he didn't. Even if Dunton didn't tell Edwards to drop his weapon -- why did Dunton fire his gun six times? Why not five times? 

(Was it the sixth bullet that killed him?)

Why didn't Dunton stop firing after the first bullet hit Edwards? Or the second? I mean... am I supposed to believe -- is the public supposed to believe -- that Edwards did not fall after being shot once? Are we supposed to believe that Edwards, a police officer, would not have lowered his gun or dropped his gun before Dunton shot him? That is -- if Dunton truly did tell Edwards that he was a police officer. 

Or is it possible that Dunton shot Edwards without warning him. Or shot Edwards in the back as he ranaway. I mean -- why else would Dunton have had cause to shoot a person? What could Edwards have possibly done to give a police officer a reason to shoot him -- if he, in fact, knew that the person confronting him was a police officer -- and that confronting officer had a gun... wouldn't Edwards comply with the officers demand to relinquish his weapon?

Critics of those who ask questions like these will say that people like myself can't understand what it's like to be a police officer. A police officer in a life and death situation. A police officer has seconds -- or less than that -- to decide what to do. To save lives. To save themselves.

“Rest assured we will find out exactly what happened here and see what we can learn from it so it can never happen again,”
said Republican Mayor Bloomberg (and eight richest man in the United States, by the way -- which makes him the richest man in New York City -- a net worth of 16 billion . Why the hell is mayor?! Doesn't he have a software company to run! Damn). "The only thing that can come out of this is to improve procedures so perhaps it doesn't happen again."

We will find out exactly what happened.

And see what we can learn from it.

So it can never happen again.

Well -- let me save you a bit of time, worry and intellectual labor Mr. Bloomberg. The thing that exactly happened -- that "we" can learn from so it never happens again -- is a thing that black parents teach their black boy and girl children about. A thing that black people, like myself, already know -- cuz if we didn't -- we might get shot by a police officer making a routine traffic stop -- and we are the driver or passengers of that car -- and we reach for a drivers license, or car insurance, or registration -- or anything. If we reach for anything under that police officer's gaze without moving carefully and telling that white officer what we are doing every half-inch we move -- we could get shot.

"[U.S. Representative Charles] Rangel [a Democrat and a black man] apologized this week for an earlier comment about President Barack Obama needing to be careful when visiting Harlem, apparently alluding to the shooting. He was answering a reporter's question about what Obama should do when he visited the city Saturday with the first lady.

Good point, Rangel! And damn good advice.

So, most of us black folks have our Ph.D. in how to avoid getting shot, beaten, arrested or harassed by police officers -- Still, in spite of our Ph.D.'s on how to survive living in a white supremacist society that is guarded and defended by gun-toting, baton wielding, predominantly white male police force that is always acquitted for murdering innocent unarmed civilians, since  the 1970s, an unknown number of us unarmed black folks have been murdered by police officers -- and thousands upon thousands of us have been beaten -- millions of us arrested and harassed. (Please note: A 1994 Crime Control Act requires the Attorney General and police departments to publish statistics on police shootings but police departments don't cooperate -- and neither the Attorney General, or the State Department to which the Attorney General belongs, or the federal government that houses it try to force police departments to cooperate.

Historian Fox Butterfield says, "This lack of accurate statistics makes it virtually draw meaningful, big-picture conclusions about deadly encounters between the police and the civilian population, including the fatal shooting...of an unarmed black man in Cincinnati [2001], an incident that incited days of violent protests and vandalism. Without a national barometer, there is no conclusive way to determine whether this or other incidents around the country — like those involving Amadou Diallo in New York [1999] and Rodney King in Los Angeles [1991] — represent racially based police misconduct, or any kind of trend at all.")

So, that thing that more white folks should learn about in order for black folks -- the ones with and without badges -- to avoid  being "unjustifiably" murdered -- that thing, that lesson is about unconscious or conscious white racism. Specifically, the way in which conscious and unconscious white racist fantasies or ideas about people of color -- can make a white person a murderer -- and make a black or brown person dead. 

There are scientists who have tried to measure it -- measure that thing that makes white people shoot at innocent black people. They've done studies. They learned that white folks and black folks will shoot at a black person quicker than they will shoot at a white person. Interesting, huh. And get this, when the target was black, more white folks will pull the trigger even quicker  than black folks did. No matter who the shooter is, then, black criminals will die a lot quicker than white criminals. Of course, black innocents will also die a lot quicker than white innocents.  Though, a black/brown person's chances are about 75% better if the person aiming at them is black. Comforting isn't it. I have yet to read or hear about an unarmed white person being gunned down by police officers.

The world is safe!

Well, actually, the white world is safe.

The white world is safe from all black people -- criminal and non-criminal -- because white folks are far more likely to shoot down a negro -- whether they are breaking the law or not -- simply because the person pulling the trigger is white -- and the person who is getting shot at is black.

So, rest easy.

Unless you're black.

Then you fuckin' have to worry about walkin' around -- day or night -- inside the peripheral vision of a white police officer or any white person, for that matter, with a deadly weapon.

Cuz if you're black, you just may not make it home.

This story began with Officer Omar Edwards. A newly married, young father of two children -- one child less than  year old; the other child just over a year old. 


"My son is dead, my son is dead," Edwards' heartbroken mother, Natalia Harding, told a friend while she held her son's babies. "They killed my son."

Officer Edwards isn't the first black officer to be murdered by a fellow officer -- a fellow white officer. The Rev. Al Sharpton said that there was "a growing pattern of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the criminals.”

A pattern of murders.

In January 2008, a [black] Mount Vernon officer, Christopher A. Ridley, 23, was killed by [a white] Westchester County...[Officer Frank Oliveri] in downtown White Plains as he tried to restrain a homeless man whom he had seen assault another person." According to a lawsuit filed against Oliveri, the Westchester D.A. and other Westchester officials, Oliveri shot Ridley in the head at point-blank range, and then subsequently, hid Ridley's badge in his car.

And in February 2006, a New York City officer, Eric Hernandez [Latino], 24, was fatally shot by...[white] fellow officer, Daryl Massey, 26,] while responding to a 911 call about a fight at a White Castle restaurant in the Bronx."

A pattern of white police officers subconscious? unconscious? conscious? racism manifesting as lethal violence against black police officers.

So, even if -- technically -- you are on the "right" side of the law -- the "white" side of the law -- you're still a target for racist police violence. 

You know... if it's dark. 

Or if it's light. 

And if your gun's unholstered.

 Or if your gun is holstered.

And if you're running down the street. 

Or if you're walking down the street. 

If you're black. 

If you're brown.

Then you just might be fucking dead.

Because sometimes.

White cops can't distinguish between black cops, brown cops --

And criminals.

If you're one of these un-fuckin' lucky black cops. Or brown cops. Then your  family is stripped -- suddenly -- of a father. A brother. A son...

You're gone. And they are grieving. Forever.

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