Let me ask you a question. When exactly would a grand jury indict a white police officer in the death of a black man?
No. Really. When?
Let’s look at some possible scenarios.
If the police shoot a black man who’s minding his own business holding a bb gun he got off the shelf at Walmart…
If the police are described by multiple witnesses as shooting a black man who’s in the process of surrendering with his hands up…
If the police are caught on video choking a black man to death while he screams, “I can’t breathe”…
NOT EVEN THEN! ON VIDEO!
I mean it. If not then, when WOULD a grand jury make this indictment? What would it take?
The way things are going it’s easy to imagine a black man being stabbed to death in a court of law right in front of the jury box, and those 12 angry men still wouldn’t be able to find enough evidence to bring it to trial!
That’s what we’re talking about here.
This has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. This has to do with there being enough evidence for a jury to decide that there are enough questions about the incident to make it worthy of a criminal trial.
We’re not talking about finding the police guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
We’re not talking about finding the police guilty at all.
We’re talking about the possibility that something might be wrong here.
In the top three examples above, grand juries didn’t even think there was an outside chance the police might have been in the wrong. And those are all real cases.
The fourth example is pure fantasy but look for it to hit the news real soon.
Some will say this has less to do with race and more to do with the police. To which I’d ask where are all the cases of this happening to white people?
Where’s the police officer killing a white man holding a child’s toy gun? Where’s the police killing a white man with his hands up? Where’s the video of the police choking a white man to death?
If you go looking, this is what you’ll find: white guys pointing guns – not toy guns, real weapons – at police and bystanders before being calmly talked down by police. You’ll find white men with hands in the air being taken peacefully into custody. You’ll find white guys choking on a cup of coffee the officer provided and being helpfully slapped on the back.
This isn’t to say all police officers are racist. Far from it.
This isn’t even really about the militarization of the police force. It’s a huge problem, but it’s not the central issue here.
What is at issue is a justice system that continually fails to seek justice.
For some reason in a court room, all human life is precious unless it is wrapped in a black skin. And police are innocent. Period.
The system has repeatedly failed. That’s why people are taking to the streets and in some cases looting and rioting.
If you can’t trust the police and the justice system, what’s the point of obeying the law? You’re a target – fair game – whether you’re law abiding or not. Might as well tip those scales back a bit in your favor.
I’m not saying this reaction is right, but it’s certainly comprehensible.
When people become citizens they enter into an unspoken contract with society. I’ll obey the laws if you’ll treat me fairly. We’re letting down our side of the bargain.
You’ve probably seen the hashtag #nojusticenopeace. That’s not a prescription. It’s a description of reality.
We MUST restore our courts to working order. Justice must be blind. Fair. Impartial.
If not, we will have no society at all.
Only questions about what went wrong.
This article has also been published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.