Thursday, July 7, 2016

Another day, another video

It is hard to know how to feel these days.  Watching OJ: Made in America in the midst of the weekly videos of police brutality towards brown people and an unapologetically racist candidate for president makes me want to stay in bed forever and pull the covers over my head.

The OJ miniseries reminds me of where I was when all of this happened.  I was in college.  I remember being shocked and outraged when I saw the Rodney King video.  I remember thinking in my ignorance that surely these police officers would go to prison.  Police were there to protect you.  They were the people you were supposed to run to in a crisis.  These cops in the video weren't real policeman.  They were anomalies.  They would be punished and all would be right in the world. 

Well of course that's not what happened.  How blissful I was in my ignorance.  Now 2 decades later I can't count the number of times I've seen similar videos of police brutality.  I don't even hope for a trial or guilty verdict any more.  Not only has it become commonplace for police officers to kill black people, but it is also okay if you're just a citizen.  You don't even have to be a cop.  You see a black person.  Make an assumption about that person.  Even if that person is minding their own business and poses no threat to you at all.  You can kill him.  No one will care.  No one will notice.

What if all these videos were of white people being beaten and murdered?  Every time I hear a story about an innocent person being mistaken for a criminal I don't need to hear the race of the person.  I know it is only on the news because that person is dead and likely unarmed and black.

My hope is that eventually such a heinous crime will be caught on video that people will be shocked into action.  I don't know what will be worse than police severing a man's spine or shooting an unarmed man 20 times on his wedding day but I know it will come.  That the end of slavery, desegregation of schools, etc.  all came eventually.  Eventually cops will think twice before killing someone because they know that they will be punished for their crime and go to jail if they are wrong.  

I am so sick of hearing the daily justifications for these actions.  Oh, it's okay that they killed this innocent person because he has a criminal record.  No, he wasn't breaking the law when they shot him but the mere existence of a shady background makes it okay.  Or maybe they were breaking the law.  Maybe they have a warrant for their arrest.  No they didn't have a gun and weren't threatening the police in any way but they might have.  See we killed a bad person.  Eventually this person would have done something so we were doing a public service.

Not that this brutality is new.  It's just that in this age of social media and everyone having a camera in their pocket that they are caught on tape and made public.  People who think there is a sudden surge in police brutality are naive.  The brutality has been going on forever and will likely continue to go on.  It's just harder to ignore now. 

Every time I pass a police officer I have irrational fears of being pulled over for speeding and then being pulled out of my car and being beaten.  If I walk into a store and there are police there I worry that I might look suspicious.  That my big purse will make them think I'm carrying a weapon. That if I talk too loudly or get too close to them they will accuse me of something.  But them I worry that if they don't notice me and I suddenly sneak up on them by walking around a corner they may be surprised by the sudden appearance of a black face and draw their weapons.

I know that these fears are irrational but that doesn't stop me from having them.  I can't imagine that any of the innocent people who have been killed thought they were about to die. 

So yes, OJ was obviously guilty.  The evidence should have been more than enough to put him away for those murders.  But he got off.  He beat the system.  He was a black man who committed a crime and wasn't punished for it.  It feels like a victory in the face of all of the cops who killed black people and got away with it.  I can understand why so many people wanted to believe that OJ was innocent. 

I'm happy that in the end karma came around and he ended up going to jail.  Sure, it wasn't for murder but it still feels like justice.  I can only hope that one day karma will come around for the rest of us too.    Until then I won't make the mistake of running towards police for help.  I will take my chances with whoever is chasing me instead.