So the 3 cops who killed Sean Bell got off without even a slap on the wrist. Not even a misdemeanor. An unarmed man gets slaughtered on his wedding day and no justice is served–except for the police. As a young Black male, I instantly placed myself at the scene of that crime. I instantly saw myself leaving my house on the day of my wedding in 2003 after playing video games with my brother, stopping at the mall on the way to one of the happiest days of my life, and being shot at 50 times. I instantly thought of the look on my would-have-been wife’s face; the shock and horror of all the guests who flew in for the ceremony the night before; the loss hope of my parents and siblings; and the unthinkable reality that my near 2-year old daughter would have never been born. Just thinking about it all is enough to get me emotional as well as anyone who knows me and my family.
What would kill me all over again would be knowing that the officers who slaughtered me would go unpunished. See if Sean Bell was killed in the course of physically assaulting an officer, or attacking someone else and resisting arrest, then there would have been a little more understanding of the actions of the police officers on the part of some Black people. Unfortunately, however is not what happened. Sean Bell and his friends were shot at 50 times. Yes, 50 times. The main 2 reasons given were that there was a gun and that the 3 men were trying to run the police over. In the 12.3 seconds it took for one of the officers (who didn’t identify themselves) to reload and fire 31 shots (watch demonstration here), they could have at least moved out of the way but they chose to slay. I’m not trying to retry the case. I’m just speaking on what I saw based on what I read.
What runs through my mind also is that animals don’t even get killed like this. Deer, dogs, birds, all endure 1 shot deaths by their hunters. People who have died by firing squads probably received fewer bullets. When one takes into the account Amadou Diallo and countless others like Rodney King or Yvelt Occean who mysteriously died in police custody (and was dead when he left the police station and was still in handcuffs and ankle shackles when his corpse arrived in the hospital), one has to ask why this does not happen to White people. Why is it that White criminals and law-abiding citizens do not end up dying by tasers, arrests, or mysterious shootings in the numbers that we do? The only conclusion I can come to is that it is still open season on Black men.
Since our arrival in this country, whether through Slavery, Jim Crow, or modern day times, Black people have always been slaughtered while our killers went free or received little to no punishment. Countless lynched, raped, and castrated Blacks, as well as notable names like Emmitt Till, Diallo, and; Rodney King continue to come to mind. Did James Earl Ray admit to killing Dr. King because he thought he’d get off during that time as so many others did? Just thinking out loud but nevertheless, in 2008, we are still targets despite the most advanced degrees we earn or millions we make.
Don’t get me wrong. I always knew this and my work over the years reflects that fact. What makes this so much more unfortunate is that in the same year that we may elect the first Black President, we are constantly reminded of the one step backwards we seem to take as a society. What stings more than that is the belief by so many that people like Bell and Diallo either must have done something else to provoke the police or even worse, got what they served for “disobeying” the police. From our far away-from-the-scene of the crime through their laptops and beer or latte sipping, they condemn us for crimes against us based on simple news headlines.
Until White people en masse begin to see their own children in the cars like Sean Bell or until they can envision their own children getting shot 41 times while reaching for their wallets, there will never be a true understanding of the plight of so many Black people versus the flight of a few. One of my White colleagues told me that when things like this happen, it makes him want to just reach as many people as possible in this fight for social justice. I told him that cases like this make me want to reach as many people as quickly as possible with my work because I am reminded that I’m on a clock that often ticks much faster for a Black man than the rest of society. By the way, do you have the time?