This week Americans were able to cut through the rhetoric and rationalizations to see one very real aspect of being Black in America when a campus cop shot a young man named Samuel Dubose in cold blood.
Cincinnati officials didn’t try to whitewash this, make excuses or exonerate the officer. “This was a chicken**** stop.” Yes- it was and it’s caught on tape for a nation to see. Samuel Dubose is reported to be a peace-loving person. He’s no one’s definition of a “thug” (a term white people use to describe a black person who apparently deserves to be killed).
He was also a smart black man too aware of what could happen as a result of an innocent police stop. It was pretty obvious the campus cop – who really should have had something else to do – thought he had stolen the car he was driving. No evidence of this mind you – just a black man driving a nice car. I can’t imagine a cop asking me if this was my car. That’s never happened – and I’ve been stopped a few times.
I wondered – can campus cops stop you for city violations like having a back license plate but not a front one? I mean the campus cops at Mississippi University stood on the corner with a radar gun and ran after us if we were speeding (I kid you not). I was curious about this and did some googling and according to the comments in this thread – the 2 license plate requirement is a loophole that lets police stop anyone they want to for minor violations. Now I don’t believe everything I read on the internet – but this makes more sense than anything else in terms of why do I need a plate on the front AND back of my car? Never made sense to me – and it’s not a law I’ve ever taken seriously but then again, I’m white. **Note – my brother says this is so if you steal one license plate, you have to steal the other as well. Still doesn’t make a lot of sense – but if this is the case it could have contributed to the cop thinking the car has been stolen.**
When Dubose didn’t have his license, this too resonated with me. I am guilty of being stopped and not having my license with me. And I have asked them to run my name. They’ve done it. Now, also I have to admit to being grateful for not having my license when I was stopped in the past because once 20 years ago I was stopped for a “rolling stop” rather than a full stop at a stop sign (that one in Shuqualak turning toward Philadelphia) and cops took my license. I was without it for 2 months until I paid the ticket and they mailed it back to me.
I saw the cop cam yesterday and was just sick to my stomach: at the cowardice of the policeman who obviously was looking for a fight when he stopped Dubose; at the shot fired point blank in the head because the man wouldn’t let the officer forcefully pull him out of the car; at the panicked and unnecessary taking of a life; at the horrible aftermath with the car screaming down the road and the campus cop reporting the suspect was fleeing as he lumbered toward the already dead “perp”. It made me sick for hours.
My grandfather was a lawman. The family tells stories about him. He never used his gun in the two terms that he was sheriff of Neshoba County. Didn’t point it – didn’t fire it. Didn’t need to. He had a spine of steel. He believed in walking up to the perp who may or may not have been armed, and then looking him straight in the eye and asserting his authority – God Given, given by the county, and by the law. He had been in the war. He was a brave man. He went into a house where men had barricaded themselves with weapons unarmed, and brought them out – shamefaced. He believed in his physical and mental strength, and he knew the people he was sworn to protect and serve. He had some sort of relationship with all of them. That included the people who were breaking the law. Even those, he was sworn to protect and serve.
What I have seen lately is an indication that we, as a society haven’t lost our hearts and souls. We still have the ability to be outraged when injustice occurs. We WILL change things that are in our control to change. We will change our perspectives. We will give to a cause. We will take down a time-honored flag. We will speak our minds, and we will hold people accountable for their actions. Maybe politicians won’t do anything because of the lobbyists that bankroll their office – but we as individuals are doing meaningful things. And people – that is powerful.
Christians on Social Media cherry pick Bible Verses to share which outline their beliefs. I’m going to cherry pick this verse for this instance. However, I have triangulated it with other Bible verses, and I consider it to be one of the guiding principles of Christianity.
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Since you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40
Where police encounters are concerned, black people are the most vulnerable species in the United States. We personally as a nation have witnessed two instances in which black people were stopped and detained or killed as a result of stops that should have resulted in nothing more than a ticket. We’ve seen cops escalate these encounters because they were for lack of a better term, picking a fight that they were fated to win. Many experiences like this happened behind the scenes. People this is unacceptable. A change is needed.
I think we need to be sure that those who protect and serve are brave and wise. They should be role models. They should be people we can look up to and trust.
Maybe changing the system means we won’t have as many cops, but we’ll have consistently better cops.
P.S. Didn’t link to the video because I think it’s just too disturbing – but if you want to see it you can google it.
*Update* My brother and daughter both said to me, “You missed the most important part of this issue!” To them, the most important part of this issue was that both the cop and his colleagues lied about what happened to justify the killing. This prompted some deep reflection on my part – because it didn’t surprise me that they lied. I didn’t expect them to tell the truth at all. It isn’t even worth mention to me that they lied. For me, it goes without saying that in this sort of situation, people lie, distort the truth, or try to convince themselves that something else happened, to save their own reputation and preserve their way of life.
Of course a bully and a coward lies. This is a defining characteristic. If other cops had body cams we’d have been up in arms long before now.
Cop cams all around, please. And live satellite feeds to a web-based site would be great, too. Too much to ask?