November 25, 2006: Sean Bell. August 9, 2014: Michael Brown. November 22, 2014: Tamir Rice. April 4, 2015: Walter Scott. April 12, 2015: Freddie Gray. April 13, 2015: Eric Harris. The summer of 2015: Eric Garner. July 2015: Sandra Bland. July 19, 2015: Samuel DuBose. July 5, 2016: Alton Sterling. July 6, 2016: Philando Castile. September 2016: Terrance Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott.
What do all these people have in common? They are African Americans. They died while in police custody. They were shot to death by the cops, and they were unarmed. In each case, with the exception of Keith Lamont Scott, the shooting officer was White. Eleven of these thirteen police encounters were caught on camera.
Sean bell and the two guys he was with were unarmed when undercover cops fired fifty shots, killing Mr. Bell. Michael Brown wasn’t armed when he was shot to death by a police officer. Tamir Rice was in the playground playing with a pellet gun when he was murdered by the cops on camera. Video footage showed Walter Scott running away from the cop who shot him eight times in the back. He too was unarmed. Freddie Gray’s arrest was caught on camera, and it showed him not being able to walk. He wasn’t armed, but he died one week later due to sever injuries to his spine. Eric Harris’ murder was also caught on video, showing him being shot by a volunteer law enforcement reservist. Eric Garner was seen on camera being choked to death by a police officer while being held down by several others.
The arrest of Sandra Bland, who was without a weapon, was recorded on video. She mysteriously died while in police custody three days after her arrest. Samuel DuBose was killed during a traffic stop, even when it was clear that he posed no threat. Video footage showed Alton Sterling on the ground, not resisting and lying on his stomach, when he was shot by the police. Cellphone video recorded a cop killing Philando Castile as his four-year-old daughter sat in the back seat. Terrance Crutcher was seen on camera walking backwards with his hands in the air when he was killed by the cops. Keith Lamont Scott wasn’t armed when he was shot on camera by the police.
These killings of civilians by law enforcement officers have sparked protest, riots, and outrage. It’s like African American lives have no value because the police have a license to kill us whenever they want to.
Since 2012, people have been protesting under the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” But there is an additional issue here: why is it that a black life matters only when it’s taken by a police officer? I ask this question, because as a Black man, I witness first hand how African Americans, especially men, treat each other. We don’t value our own lives. If we did, we wouldn’t be killing each other. Chicago has the highest murder rate in America. If Black Lives mattered so much, there would be fewer crimes in many places.
There is no single solution to this problem, but what can be done is find ways to bridge the gap between police officers and African American communities. All police officers aren’t bad. It should go without saying that all Black people aren’t dangerous. If both sides came together, conversations can be had until common ground is reached. African Americans need to also stop viewing other African Americans as enemies. We need to treat each other like human beings, and set an example for how to be treated.