How long must we wait?

July 8th, 2016

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How many videos of black fathers/sons/brothers being killed by police must we see before we acknowledge the problem?

Here is a PARTIAL list of black men who died at the hands of police officers in the last couple of years:

Dontra Hamilton – Milwaukee – 4/14′

Eric Garner – New York – 7/14

John Crawford III – Dayton – 8/14

Michael Brown – Ferguson – 8/14

Ezell Ford – Florence CA – 8 /14

Danta Parker – Victorville CA – 8/14

Akai Gurley – Brooklyn – 11/14

Tamir Rice – Cleveland – 11/14

Rumain Brisbon – Phoenix – 12/14

Jeraime Reid – Bridgeton NJ – 12/14

Tony Robinson – Madison WI – 3/15

Phillip White – Vineland NJ – 3/15

Eric Harris – Tulsa – 4/15

Walter Scott – North Charleston SC – 4/15

Freddie Gray – Baltimore – 4/15

Dontrell Stephens –West Palm – 5/15

Christian Taylor – Arlington TX — 8/15

Akiel Denkins – Raleigh NC – 2/16

This week, we add to that list the names of Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge LA, and Philando Castile, Falcon Heights MN. By most credible accounts, that makes at least 114 black men killed by police in 2016 – so far.

The fact that Diamond Reynolds (pictured above) had the presence of mind and the courage to live-stream a video of Philando Castile’s killing at the hands of a police officer while her toddler sat in the back of their car says volumes about where we are as a people today. So does the fact that vengeance against police was sought immediately, in Dallas, for the deaths of Castile and Sterling.

If even half as many white men had been killed by cops across the last two years, Congress would have passed a sweeping reform bill to address the problem, perhaps by giving police departments more money for training or establishing new, higher standards for hiring. State legislatures across the country would have adopted new laws to make local cops more accountable, or give citizens more of a role in making them accountable – or something.

But these are black men. We don’t care as much about them, do we. After all, they have a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; or they have a history of miscreant behavior; or they gave the police officers who shot them reason to fear for their safety.

Change is a four-step process. It begins with articulation; continues with discussion; proceeds through litigation; and ends in legislation.

When it comes to the systemic racism that infects our justice system, from the local police precinct to the courtroom and the prison, we seem to be stuck in phase one. What will it take to move us forward? And how much longer must we wait?

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