That’s what we say a picture tells. This one does more than that. It reveals the ugly stain of racism, which like the blood on Macbeth’s hands, cannot come off. That’s a grim outlook, and one I’d like to think is wrong. One that, twenty years ago I did think was wrong. But then I see this picture.
That dude has two weapons. Some sort of AR-15, and some sort of 9mm pistol. It’s the pistol I’m looking at, because it’s the weapon he’s threatening people with.
Yes, threatening. He’s not drawn it, but he’s ready to. His thumb looks to have cleared the restraint. The guy behind the cop is scared, the cop’s body language is that of someone agitated. I can’t read the body language of the other cop, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a pretty strong focus on this guy.
This guy has put his feet flat, his fingers are around the butt and his index finger is extended; his head is up. That’s a tell. He’s braced it which helps draw, and indexed it, so that it will slip to the trigger accurately and he’s put his eyes on target. He is just short of committing assault with a deadly weapon. In Florida what he’s doing would justify a “stand your ground” shooting.
The cops “talked him down”. They had every right to arrest him. He was posing a menace to public safety (even when one has the right to carry, it doesn’t grant the privilege of using that weapon to threaten: that’s a prerogative we do grant police, and why they need to be held to scrutiny. Engaging that level of threat leads to escalation, so it needs strong justification).
Then I look back at the past year. Eric Garner, dead for selling cigarettes. John Crawford, dead for picking up a toy gun in a store. Mike Brown, dead for… I don’t know, so far as I can tell it’s for mouthing off, and then managing to tear himself away from an abusive cop. Sam Dubose dead for… driving while black.
The list… is long. Too long. It’s more than just the people the cops kill, it’s the way they don’t kill some people, and the ways they abuse others. The deaths are easy (and the gun deaths easier to list, but the chokeholds, the tasers, the strange frequency people like Sandra Bland end up dead in custody… all of them need to be accounted for), but there are all the other things; the beatings (Rodney King was one of many, the LA Sheriff’s Dept. pays a lot of money for abuse settlements), the framings (Rampart Division of the LAPD ain’t unique). The petty harassment of Stop and Frisk; well, petty if it only happens once in a while, but when it’s repeated, day after day, month after month, year after; for lifetimes…
I like to think I’m more attuned to it than most. My second step-father was black, and that caused me to be treated differently on occasion. But that doesn’t change the fact that I was only ever not-white when in his company (and not always then). I don’t trust cops, but I don’t expect them to treat me with more than casual disrespect. I know I am not seen by them as a perp; by default.
I know that, push come to shove, they will treat me more like the asshole on Stone Mountain than they will treat me like Walter Scott.
And that is shameful.