Point of View Columns

The Silent Plague

The past few weeks/months/years have seen a proliferation of sad and tragic videos of Black men being killed by white police officers. From Ferguson to Detroit to Staten Island to Brooklyn Center, the sad and tragic scenario of death and desolation is replayed seemingly countless times. But this proliferation raises a very important question – is the simultaneous proliferation of police body cameras and cellphone videos the reason that we know about these tragedies or……has this been going on all along and our awareness is simply based on the advance of technology.

It is possible to believe that the awful occurrence of Police on Black crime is increasing because of the economy, COVID or the malevolent presence of 45. But a bit of logic is important to note. Because during the past few decades there has been some real progress in terms of police training as well as situational awareness. Yet, despite this progress, these police homicides seem to proliferate like malevolent weeds in the garden of our lives.

An alternative thought is that it was actually worse years ago. When there were no police body cameras or pesky cellphone videos police could do whatever made sense to their universe of perspective and there was no alternative reality.

Consider the fact that if the death of Davoun Martin at the hands of the police had occurred in 1970 there would have been no video or photographic evidence. The police officers involved would have concocted a story about Mr. Martin presenting a danger/reaching for a gun…whatever, and that would have been the end of the story. Literally, no one reading this would ever have even known his name, much less the circumstances of his death.

Accepting this alternative theory, it is possible to realize that police/law enforcement authorities have been killing Black men without consequence for centuries. Keep in mind that since the appearance of Black people in America in 1619 there were actual laws which mandated that it was not a crime for white men to kill Black people for any cause whatsoever until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

That virulent mind set had already spread into the body politic prior to the ratification of the Constitution and it was only due to a civil war and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments that Black Americans were according a semblance of citizenship and humanity. Nevertheless, the dehumanization of Black Americans has persisted through the deconstruction of Reconstruction into the Jim Crow Era into present day America and the arrival of the James Crow Era.

During all of these centuries the devaluing of Black lives made it simple, easy and logical for law enforcement to impose capital punishment on Black Americans for whatever real or imagined offense might come to mind. And that is why it is possible to believe that technology is not the reason why there is a proliferation of Blue on Black Crime in America.

We have every historical, statistical and anecdotal reason to believe that the law enforcement institutions of this nation have been killing Black men, women and children with impunity throughout the history of the United States. It has been such a part of the DNA of American law enforcement that some police officers have been unable to stop such vile conduct even with the knowledge that body cameras, cell phone video and street cameras are everywhere.

In other words, it has always been here. Before the founding of the Republic.

Except now we see it in real time.

And sadly, we will continue to see this infernal replay until justice and the recognition of the innate humanity of Black Americans becomes a reality.

We can only hope that that day will come sooner than later.

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