According to a new study released by the Public Religion Institute, 51 percent of White Americans agree that Black people as well as other minority groups are treated unfairly in the criminal justice system — up from 42 percent in 2013. I imagine this is the part where I’m supposed to say, “Congratulations, 51 percent of White people, you have managed to finally admit the obvious in the midst of overwhelming evidence.” Alas, I refuse. More White Americans should know this given they — indirectly or otherwise — are largely responsible for the imbalance.
On Wednesday morning, it was announced that a special grand jury had decided not to indict the officers responsible in the shooting death of John Crawford III (pictured) at a Walmart located in Beavercreek, Ohio. The jury found that the officers were justified in their actions. Not long after, surveillance video was released to the public — proving to many what an absolute crock that decision was.
Crawford was not brandishing the toy gun as previously claimed. He was not threatening anyone; his presence — and the preconceived notions others had of him as a result of that — were the only dangerous thing in that Walmart that day. All Crawford did was talk on his cell phone and shop. The toy gun was pointed at the floor for much of the time, and even when it did casually swing back and forth, it was gentle and never pointed at any other customer.
When Beavercreek police officers entered that Walmart shortly after a 9-1-1 call had been placed, they clearly did so with a singular mission: to take Crawford out.
There was no hesitation before they fatally shot him.
That is murder.
I tried to avoid watching the video for as long as I could. It is frightening to be reminded so vividly what can happen to you while simply shopping as a Black man. And now, after watching the footage, even more frustrating to know how easy it is to get away with shooting someone in cold blood because the killer is hiding behind a badge.
Meanwhile, Chief Thomas Jackson of the Ferguson police department issued an apology to the family of Michael Brown. In the videotaped apology, which aired on CNN, Thomas says, “No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling. I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street.”
If this apology feels too choreographed for your liking, you are not alone.
In a statement issued on behalf of the Brown family, Anthony Gray countered with:
“We feel that the apology comes at a time when the trust and the confidence in the chief has already reached an all-time and irreversible low. And it is nearly impossible to measure any reach of his apology at this time. Most observers, we believe, are already locked into their opinions about the handling of the shooting of this unarmed teen. Dynamite, much less an apology, will do little to move anyone off their opinions at this point.”
Jackson said that despite calls for his resignation in the wake of the handling of Brown’s shooting, he will not resign. Jackson argued on CNN, “Realistically, I’m going to stay here and see this through. This is mine, and I’m taking ownership of it.”
Taking responsibility sometimes means knowing when to step away from a situation after you’ve made one too many mistakes.
It remains to be seen if Jackson’s newfound sense of urgency will prove itself to counter cynicism around him, but there are plenty of other members of law enforcement in Missouri ready to keep tensions high. There are police officers in the area wearing bracelets that read “I Am Darren Wilson.” After being contacted about the bracelets following them making their way on to Instagram, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told Buzzfeed, “I think that was not a statement of law enforcement. I think wearing that was an individual statement.”
It’s a statement alright.
It’s a testament to the inherent bias many of these officers harbor toward select members of the community to which they are supposed to protect and serve as opposed to profile, harass, or (in Darren Wilson’s case), shoot in cold blood and leave to rot in the street.
It’s a statement of defiance.
Likewise, the grand jury failing to indict those who wrongly killed John Crawford III is a statement of their utter disregard for his humanity. Thomas’ statement, seeking to convey empathy, is outweighed by his refusal to leave a job he clearly is not good at doing.
All of this happens at a time where half of White Americans finally grasp that the justice system isn’t fair. Awareness is one thing, but action is another. They know, but what is being done about it? When we get an answer on that, maybe I’ll become more excited.