I read a status on my Facebook timeline by an African American minister; a friend of a friend whose status showed up only because of her comment on his status. He suggests that compliance with police officers could have saved the lives of a majority of people who have recently died at the hands of police. He posts the video of the Keith Lamont Scott murder as, I guess, evidence. He explains that he understands compliance intimately by sharing this story: as younger men he and friends were stopped and robbed by police. Their choice, he suggests, to face the wall, hands up as told and accept the stick up, saved their lives.
His post was welcomed with mostly agreement from other African Americans.
I thought of cases that might be part of his imagined majority:
Philando Castile – sitting in passenger side of car pulled over; asked for license; indicates plans to, and attempts to, retrieve license; shot by officer
Sandra Bland – pulled over for traffic violation; receives traffic citation; refuses to stop smoking after citation issued (on her private property–her car); placed under arrest and removed from scene; dies in custody
Alton Sterling – approached by police for selling cds outside a store; allegedly brandishing gun; pinned to ground by officers and tased; shot at close range 6 times; gun retrieved by arresting officer from Sterling’s pocket
John Crawford – shopping in Walmart for gun; approached by police after call of man wielding a gun–in the gun aisle of a store that sold guns in an open carry state; shot and killed on sight
Corey Jones – awaiting assistance for his disabled vehicle; approached by white van with tinted windows; undercover officer believes the vehicle is abandoned; startled by Jones who is carrying a weapon, officer shoots at Jones six times; Jones dies
Freddie Gray – sitting on steps of neighborhood building; uncharged and unaccused ; handcuffed and removed from scene with failing legs; unrestrained in moving van; enters coma; dies
Tamir Rice – playing with toy gun in public park; shot on sight; dies
Rekia Boyd – complaints of loud party drives off-duty officer to call 911 and approach a group walking “talking too loudly;” officer shoots and kills Boyd; wounds her friend
Jonathan Ferrell – approaches an officer for assistance after a car accident; is shot and killed on sight
I thought of how each of these victims were compliant inasmuch as they were given directives by which to comply. I thought of cases in which compliance did not exactly happen and wondered if compliance might’ve saved their lives. Let’s review:
Eric Garner resisted. He was ultimately restrained in a deadly and illegal chokehold.
Mike Brown, after robbing a convenience store, was walking down the street and instructed by an officer to walk on the sidewalk. He didn’t comply. When he approached the officer who gave the directive, they scuffled. The officer who was looking for the suspect in the robbery case not realizing his suspect was Brown, shot Brown multiple times even after he retreated.
Laquan McDonald was carrying a knife and accused by an anonymous caller of using it to break into vehicles. He didn’t immediately drop the knife when instructed by officers, slicing the tire of a patrol car with it. McDonald was shot in the back while running away from police.
Korryn Gaines was alleged to have held her child and a shotgun in a standoff with police. They’d entered her apartment by kicking in the door to serve a bench warrant for a traffic citation. Both her and her young son were shot.
Each of these cases beg the question: why were options to de-escalate not employed? We see them employed often enough in cases in which the assailants present weapons more threatening than knives and their bodies. Dylann Roof, Ahmad Rahami, Joseph Houseman, Julia Shields. And the nature of these victims’ crimes are not nearly as violent as those who escaped police interactions with their lives.
The answer seems plain. And even the original author “admits” systemic racism exists. He contends it is “the system” in which we live and to which we must therefore comply. Certainly there were slaves who recognized “the system” in which they lived and therefore they complied. Certainly there were baby boomers who recognized that Jim Crow was “the system” under which they lived and therefore they complied. Sadly, compliance did not save them and has not saved us. Thanks to the Constitution and Black Codes and Fear of the Black Body compliance did not save many: Emmitt Till, George Stinney, Michael Donald, Niya Kenny, Dajerria Becton.
It’s too easy and fairly narrow to claim that being quiet about injustice or not doing anything “wrong” in the first place would’ve–or will–protect us from it. ‘Wrong” was the Selma march, attempting to vote wearing your black skin, selling and using the same marijuana that criminalized poor black boys and is today making equally enterprising individuals legally rich.
The original poster promises to “say it again,” and asks to be “corrected if wrong.” Such statements always suggest an arrogance in ignorance that I dare not challenge any further. But I am reminded that skinfolk ain’t always kinfolk.