For a few days now, I’ve been trying to assemble my words into a coherent narrative to help make sense of the last few days. I still have nothing entirely complete (and certainly nothing profound). I have shards of thoughts — bits and pieces of emotions and ideas that rise to the surface and then recede. I’ve tried to grab a few of them to share here. Be gentle.
“We feel powerless.”
Something I’ve known for a long time (but never completely verbalized) finally cemented itself in my mind this past week. To be African-American in this country is to feel — and often to actually be — nearly powerless. In a recent piece Michael Eric Dyson summed up this feeling:
Day in and day out, we feel powerless to make our black lives matter. We feel powerless to make you believe that our black lives should matter. We feel powerless to keep you from killing black people in front of their loved ones. We feel powerless to keep you from shooting hate inside our muscles with well-choreographed white rage.
This powerlessness is nothing new. Throughout history, be it through police shootings, lynch mobs, the chain gang or the chains of slavery, black bodies have always been subject to the fear, anger and disgust of white people.
At all times we know that our achievements live under the ominous cloud of white supremacy. That despite our best efforts to build strong families, strong communities, viable businesses and stable wealth, when the rain comes — and the rain always comes — our works, our livelihoods, indeed our lives are at risk of being washed away. No umbrella has ever protected us, no amount of prayer or patience or respectability has spared us. There has only ever been the flood.
A while back we debunked the idea that demands for greater police accountability were undermining police work and putting more cops in harm’s way. To the contrary, despite politicized claims, on-duty officer deaths are dropping.
And now, a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice is tackling the other half of the ‘Ferguson effect,’ myth — that protests around the country have demoralized officers so severely, that crime is once again on the rise. They find no evidence of a Ferguson or ‘viral video’ effect (as FBI Director James Comey prefers to call it). Between 2014 and 2015 crime rates largely stayed level across the country’s 30 largest cities.
Here are some key takeaways from the Brennan report: (more…)
On Tuesday August 19th, Kajieme Powell was shot and killed by two police officers in St. Louis. As reported by the Huffington post, the St. Louis police department stated that officers fired on Powell “when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife ‘in an overhand grip.”
But video since released of the incident muddies that account. Powell — visibly disturbed in the moments leading up to the shooting — does approach the officers while screaming ‘shoot me now.’ But the video also reveals that police began to fire at a distance that seems much greater than 3-4 feet and continued to shoot Powell even after he had fallen to the ground. The footage is too far away to determine whether Powell is in fact holding a knife.
The shooting took place only a few miles from where Michael Brown was killed and adds another layer of tragedy to an already frustrating situation. Sadly, Powell joins a list of black people killed by police officers that grows at a rate of at least two a week according to a conservative FBI estimate.
Watch the video of the shooting below. [WARNING: video includes graphic content.]