Monday, December 8, 2014


When my son was 15, he and two of his friends went down to the park at the end of our block after dark to play war with their BB guns where they proceeded to run around, hiding behind trees, and shooting at each other. A neighbor, hearing the shots, called 911 reporting gunfire in the park. The police responded with a helicopter using its searchlights and several cars which descended on the boys and officers approached the boys with guns drawn. After the boys were questioned, the officers confiscated their BB guns, loaded them in the back of the car unhand-cuffed, and brought them home. They were released into my care and issued citations for being in the park after hours. 

My son and his friends are white.

Granted, this was 17 years ago before the NRA decided that every home in the country needed to have 10 guns, the more powerful the better, but I have no doubt that even 17 years ago if my son and his friends had been black they would have been shot first and questioned later. If they survived being shot and the questioning, they would surely have been hand-cuffed and hauled off to jail. If it happened today to my white son and his friends I feel sure that they would be brutalized and maybe shot. If they were black, they would most certainly be killed before any orders of compliance were issued and none of the cops would be charged with their murders.

Killing blacks with impunity in this country is nothing new. As slaves their owners killed them with impunity, when freed their neighbors killed them with impunity, and now the cops kill them with impunity.

Much has been said by whites shielded by their white privilege about these recent and continuing murders of black people by the cops mostly amounting to saying that if those black people had just complied with police orders, if they had just showed some respect they would still be alive. But the fact is that these victims aren't given a chance to comply, aren't treated with respect, before they are shot dead, tased into unconsciousness or death, or brutally beat up. The police have done this so often with no repercussions that they are out of control. They respond with deadly force first and ask questions later knowing that all they have to do is say they felt their lives were in danger. According to the white officer Darren Wilson who murdered a black teen, just being black makes cops feel endangered. If these cops are so fearful for their lives while they do their jobs that they shoot first and immediately, that they unload their guns into unarmed citizens, then these people need to get a different job.

We hear about how most cops are good cops, that only a small percentage of cops are racist sociopaths but when good cops won't stand against bad cops, when good cops don't stop a bad cop from being unnecessarily brutal, when good cops allow bad cops to continue, just how good can 'good' cops be? They close ranks and protect them. Grand juries refuse to indict them. They stand by and watch a fellow officer employ an illegal chokehold on an unarmed man for selling single cigarettes, a chokehold so tight that he crushed the man's trachea and killed him. Not one of the other officers on the scene tried to intervene and stop it.

More training the pundits cry. But the problem is not lack of training. The problem is extreme racism in the police forces. Ask any black cop. The problem is hiring sociopaths, the problem is not requiring a certain level of intelligence to become a police officer, a person who is supposed to protect and serve.

A bunch of white separatists can point guns at and stand off police and federal agents and they aren't even arrested. A 12 year old black boy playing with his legal toy gun is shot dead within moments of the police arriving. White guys parading around in stores or on the streets with their semi-automatic rifles aren't even approached by police. A black guy holding a toy gun in a store that sells toy guns in an open carry state is shot dead basically on sight.

The problem is not lack of training. The problem is not lack of compliance on the part of black people.

The problem is, this is a racist country with racism rampant in the police departments and in the white population. The problem is that black and brown people are targeted for search and harassment just for being out in public. Even all the protests and rioting caused by the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager among others, with all the publicity and evidence shared massively through social media, the police have not even paused.

So now the 'solution' is to have all cops wear body cameras as if that is going to make a difference. We already have plenty of video out there showing police brutality. It doesn't matter. No one will indict a cop. They don't even lose their jobs. And until they do, nothing will change.

Until this country stands up for, stands with, stands behind it's black and brown citizens, then we have no moral ground to criticize other countries for human rights violations.

I have focused on the racism in this country because most of the police brutality and murders are inflicted on people of color but the fact is, white people are also brutalized by police and in growing numbers.


  1. There is something deeper and creepier going on here. It could be that this is primarily racial, but I'm of the opinion that "they" are merely using race as a convenient weakness in the social fabric. There is a definite attempt to break down the ties of trust within our social networks, and this divide conquer approach is merely the most obvious and easiest place to start. As to who "they" are, it's pretty obvious: the same people that get their weed and coke home-delivered to them with impunity. The same people that can wreck the world economy and get a bonus for it.

  2. I can only add my voice, Ellen. It will take millions of voices.

  3. Thank you for the caveat at the end. It is very true. But also as true is that black youths are brutalized much more freely than whites. It isn't their problem. It's our problem. Until we stand together and stop this butchery it will not stop.

  4. A Facebook retaliation was a recent white boy shot by a black officer. Sad when lack of respect causes any death. I was always told by my dad to only say Yes sir and No sir. I carry and would want to inform anyone I had anything with my hands held clear. We played war with BB guns, it was a lot of fun.

  5. I agree with every word. And it's getting scarier and scarier out there. The police have to be held accountable and that is not happening and until it does, the despicable behavior will continue.

  6. Thank you for a thoughtful telling of the situation. Just as disturbing are the folks who are saying people are just race baiting who speak against the things that are happening.
    We all need to speak up.

  7. Thank you for this post, Ellen. Every word.

  8. Ellen, I certainly agree with the substance of what you said. Police ARE out of control, and the increasing "militarization" of police forces all over the USA is very scary.

    As I wrote in my own post, I do believe the victims in some of these recent cases responded to police in ways that inflamed the situation. But that's certainly no excuse for the police to kill them, and in other cases, you're right -- police shot first and asked questions later. I think the shooting of the 12-year-old in Cleveland is the most galling of all these incidents. That cop barely got out of the car before using fatal force. It's hard to see how he had time to issue any warning at all.

    The proliferation of guns is a huge, huge problem. It fuels the fear in the police that prompts such extreme reactions. (And yes, racism fuels that fear, too.)

    We need to reduce the number of guns on the street and decriminalize minor drug offenses, and police need continued training on proportional response. The racism problem defies an immediate solution. That's a matter of changing minds, and that takes a long, long time.

  9. There is racism among the police force here too but I doubt that any officer would have got away with killing unarmed youngsters as easily as they have in the US.

    Perhaps the trouble is that joining any kind of ‘force’ police or military, is left to society’s lower ranks; anyone with half a brain would either instantly become a higher rank in the force or do another job altogether.


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