When something is enjoyable, it’s fairly easy that the same something could quickly become a national pastime. From there and over time, it’d also be easy for that something to insinuate itself into the people’s consciousness especially if folks really find it enjoyable.
It’d be funny and something we’d laugh at, especially if it aired on a “Family Guy” episode-you know we love that sh*t-if not for the underlying serious, current and lethal component of authenticity. Yet, the recent hands up and prone shooting of behavior therapist Charles Kinsey was yet another example of excessive force against African-Americans and a very significant one.
In what is becoming typical fashion, we see how the mechanisms of denial have begun to do their work. The incident, despite the short-lived outrage, will be dutifully and unceremoniously forgotten. We see it happening already. Soon all that will be left is the concern of friends and family worried about his recuperation. In this case, they’re buoyed by the fact that Kinsey survived with only a gunshot wound to the leg. Maybe that’s why we’ve made no connection to the obvious.
And the obvious is that we’ve been given an opportunity to take an unscheduled, and I’m thinking unintended, glimpse into the reasoning behind such gut-wrenching and life-altering reactions. Whether or not he intended to, the truth if we dare look at it, was handed to us by the unidentified shooter himself in his answer to a question posed by the victim.
A little over a year and a half ago, North Miami police were embroiled in a scandal over their use of real-life images of young black men for target practice. And even then with such an extreme example of proselytization in front of us, that same cycle of overlooked and sanctioned black death prodded the general public into eventual forgetfulness. And now, here almost nineteen months later those seeds of ignorance and intolerance have sprouted and the harvest, a perennial one, begins anew to yield its tragic fruit.
Consider those three words-I don’t know-and while you’re doing so, think about the situation as it unfolded. Play devil’s advocate. You approach an altercation involving, in this case, two men and you’ve come upon it because a call came in about a man with a gun, again. You arrive and have a split second to make a judgment that will affect life or death. Two men, one white, the other black, in front of you and you have to decide in the blink of an eye seemingly, which one is a friend and which one is a foe. The white one is sitting on the ground with something in his hands and the black one is lying on the ground with his hands up. Who gets shot? Wouldn’t common sense and general police practice dictate that the man with something in his hands would be deemed the threat and the one shot, if anyone had to be under the circumstances? So what happened?
What happened was in that blink of an eye, it all became true. Everything we’ve ever heard about what people think about the color black, and in turn about black people, smacked the officer in his face and is now smacking us. It’s the early twentieth century again and the decade’s old indoctrination of the American public concerning its African immigrants is rushing to the forefront of our present society’s consciousness; and along for the journey are our nation’s law enforcement officers.
Historically, we’re not that far away. As late as the early 1950’s there were still circuits of racist carnival games trolling the country. With names like ‘Hit the Coon’, ‘Hit the Nigger’, ‘Hit the Nigger Baby’ or ‘the African Dodger’, they were diehard remnants of an era that history was trying it’s damndest to close the door on. This is where it all began and where some seem hell-bent to return us to. I wonder, how easy would it be to bring back such games at a carnival in this day and age?
From the Webster’s definition of black, to the carnivals of a Jim Crow era, to the everyday troubling expressions throughout history we’ve readily associated with the word black to the present day when some police are using pictures of black men as targets, we see how America has come to associate and equivocate black with something not altogether nice, or overtly evil or, in the most hurtful cases, something sub-human. And that brings us face-to-face with the shooting of Charles Kinsey.
Of course the officer doesn’t know why he shot the therapist but we should know, or at least recognize the possibility of why he did so. And that recognition-that the unidentified shooter is the troubling product of decades of police indoctrination, of American indoctrination-should force a much greater dialogue than anything that’s taken place thus far.
But it won’t. After all, it’s not like it was on Family Guy or something.
Video from Police Crime, YouTube Channel
Photo from USA Today/WTVJ-TV