I went to bed last night grieved.
I woke up this morning grieved.
Grieved for John Crawford, and grieved for my own children’s future in the land where there is supposedly “liberty and justice for all.”
The question I’m wrestling with is, “how many?”
How many John Crawfords, how many Mike Browns, how many _______ (fill in a name from the growing list of dead brown and black bodies) do we need before we admit that America has a serious (and I mean serious), problem?
Unlike the Michael Brown case where, to my knowledge, there’s not a video that completely captured the last moments of his life, there is such a video of John Crawford’s last moments. The video was released to the public yesterday (you can view it here) after a grand jury decided that the police officers who shot and killed him would not be held accountable for his death.
Crawford’s crime? There wasn’t one. He was shopping in Walmart and holding a BB gun that he picked up off the shelf– thus making him guilty of being a black man apparently with a gun. People called 911, the police responded, Crawford dropped the air gun, and then police shot and killed him. It’s all caught on tape, so one can watch it themselves as I have several times.
There is absolutely, positively no reason why John Crawford shouldn’t be alive at this very moment. As hard as it is for some of you to hear this, I think we need to be honest about our problem: white America is often afraid of brown and black bodies. We’ve written into our laws that homicide is justifiable if one feels scared (as demonstrated by the lack of police accountability, stand your ground laws, etc). When we combine our fear of brown and black bodies with a legal system that often justifies violence if done to assuage the emotion of fear, it leaves us with a growing list of dead people and no accountability for those who took their lives.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “holy cow, are you an idiot? The dude was carrying a gun around Walmart!”
Only partially true– he was carrying a BB gun– one that came off the shelf and was available for purchase. When the cops showed up, he even dropped the BB gun, but they killed him anyway.
But let’s say he was actually carrying a real gun around Walmart… well, that leaves us with another big problem: white people do this all the time. There’s actually a big “open carry” movement where folks bring their assault rifles to Walmart or wherever, and demand to shop without being hassled. A quick Google search will bring up plenty of photos of folks open carrying in public:
This is a problem folks, and it’s one we need to keep talking about and keep exposing until we fully shine light on this darkness. One can attempt to downplay the racial bias in our entire social system all they want, you can keep emailing me and telling me that I’m a “race baiter” and that Jesse Jackson is the “real” racist, but that doesn’t make this growing list of injustices go away. It is a reality– a deadly and all too actual reality.
There is no other way for this to be interpreted by us: our children’s brown and black bodies are not as valuable to this society as the white ones.
It is unjust. It is unbearable. It is causing a great cross section of Americans heartache and grief– these are not just passing news stories to us. In these faces, we see our own children, and we grieve not only what has passed, but also grieve what may come.
And what is it that we want? We just want our kids to have the right to not be gunned down for no reason. That’s it. That’s all we’re asking– you know, that “right to life” thing that folks are always talking about. That’s ALL WE WANT.
For our kids to live.
We are weary from seeing our own children in the dead faces that appear on our evening news. We just want them to live.
But they are not. Instead, they are being gunned down and killed though they be unarmed. Take for example, this video recently released where a young man was shot multiple times just for reaching in his vehicle to retrieve his license, just as the officer asked: (warning, it’s disturbing)
To make matters worse, those who are killing our children are not being held accountable– and this only drives home the point that much of America does not value our children.
If I’m wrong, prove me wrong. Change this culture. Show me with actions and accountability that America truly values my children as much as yours.
But until that happens, we must keep shining light on this darkness, damn the consequences.
The real question we must begin to face is this: how many John Crawfords do we need before we are willing to admit that we have a problem here?