Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tamir's death: Is this the new normal?

My rage has transformed to numbness.  I can’t feel my heartbeat. I’m weak.

What are you supposed to feel after a grand jury decides not to press charges against the police who killed Tamir Rice? What do you say after prosecutors recommend bringing no charges against the two officers who shot the 12-year-old after confusing a toy gun for one with real bullets?

What excuse can be made, this time? How can you argue that officers were simply doing their job? What…?

I’m numb. I’m confused. I’m angry.

I’ve been crying off and on for two days. Who hasn’t? What else, beyond crying, do we have after this? What parent is incapable of feeling remorse? How can a group of people, after watching that video over and over again, decide no wrong can be found?

The ruling came after I submitted this week’s column in the Columbia Missourian.( I wrote about my struggles in compiling my list of top stories in 2015.  I wrote about the mass of stories regarding police malfeasance. They seemed to come like the rising of the sun – everyday. 
One of my readers responded to my list.

“I have an idea how you can expand the limits of your contribution,” Joseph Lanigan, a consistent pain in my ass, wrote. “You can do a story on the grand jury system in Boone County, and why our Founding Fathers made sure it would be an integral part of the new country they helped to create.”
Is that the opinion floating among those who want to take us back to the days when lynching black folks was both common and legal?

I’m sick of it.

But, we must press these questions.  What is behind this familiar pattern of black people getting killed by police officers, followed by their actions being protected by citizens? What is underneath the rhetoric that fails to embrace the humanity of black bodies? What inspires the outlook willing to protect the actions of police irrespective of evidence proving culpability?

Lanigan’s statement, regarding the role of the grand jury, is frightening for a range of reasons.  His remarks assist in tapping into the convictions of those who serve in law enforcement and those who serve as members of juries.  Lanigan's words help us flush through the manure that authenticates the actions of police officers.

This is why I’m numb.

Could it be that the public attitude related to black bodies has shifted back to the post-reconstruction mentality? Black people deserve to be killed.  Police officers are protected from reprimand when the victim is black.  The role of the grand jury is to punish black people for being black.

My reader is affirming this opinion in a way that challenges us to move beyond these incidents as individual cases.  These deaths are not about the guilt of the victims or the innocence of the police.  Tamir’s death may not be about his age or the fact the gun was a toy. These cases may involve the common sentiment among those chosen to rule on these cases.

Black people deserve to die.

Black people deserve to be punished for being black. The evidence doesn’t matter.  The background of the person is insignificant.  The experience and training of police officers fails to change the conclusion. What is the conclusion? In the minds of some who are called to serve and protect, it is a crime to be black. In the minds of some who serve on grand juries, when police kill a black person, they are simply doing their job.

Is this the point of my reader’s comments? Did the forefathers institute the grand jury to protect police officers when the crime involves a black person? Is the American legal system constructed to protect people for punishing people for being black?

These are questions that force us to consider the complexity of systemic racism as it relates to the enforcement of laws. The suggestion demands a serious analysis that presupposes the mentality of those who see a need to kill black people because they are black.

This may be the logic feeding the protection of gun rights and the anti-Obama movement. Could it be that some fear a black revolution? Is it possible that some police officers are involved in an unspoken war against black people? Should we consider the possibility that some white people are willing to compromise the integrity of the judicial system when the life of a black person is taken?

Is this the purpose of the system – to maintain white dominance at all cost?

I’m numb because the questions.  I’m hoping I’m wrong.  I’m thankful for the countless white people in my life reminding me not all white people feel this way. I’m also aware of the trends. Those trends make it difficult to consider life beyond the Obama years.

Can we expect a nation comparable to post-reconstruction? Will the hate that consumed the South reemerge to take America back to the days when black people were kept in corners of discontent?  Will hate in America rise like Hitler’s Nazi Party?

Absurd you say.

This is what happens when a person is numbed by an onslaught of confusing decisions.