Friday, April 25, 2008
This Just In: Black Lives Not Worth Anything
The verdict to the Sean Bell shooting trial came in about 30 minutes ago. The officers involved were completely acquitted on all counts, and I feel sick to my stomach. Granted, I always expected this verdict, but there was some small part of me that thought these officers would've been found guilty for something, ANYTHING, that had to do with the tragic shooting of this young black man in New York City. These police officers in UNMARKED CARS shot an UNARMED man to death on the eve of his wedding, and they are not guilty of even the most minuscule counts that are being leveraged against them? I am all for personal responsibility in the black community, but those talking points just don't apply here. This man and his friends were assumed to be armed and dangerous because they were partying while black in a certain area late at night, and the officers acted on their assumptions, which were in no way proven to be true. Now, as in the past, police officers will walk the streets freely after killing yet another young black man. Will I ever find myself in this sort of situation?
There is a part of me that has to believe that my life, at least in the eyes of the law, is worth just as much as anyone else's in this society, but situations like this make me seriously doubt that. Being a young black man in this society means that my intelligence is doubted, that my life is worth less than others, and that one wrong move could send me into a jail cell or a casket at a rate that is vastly greater than that of my White, Latino, and Asian peers. The Sean Bell case isn't about Racist White Cops, because at least one of the officers involved is a Black man. Instead, it is about a culture that sees every black man as a potential threat and a thug, and how this culture feeds into the one dominant societal institution that is supposed to protect us all. I have always believed that police officers are our friends, that they exist to protect us from the bad apples in society. I believe in America, and I believe in equal justice for all. Incidents like this verdict serve only to slowly chip away at that belief, and at the love that I have for a country I have once worn the uniform of.
Is my life worth anything today, tomorrow, or the day after? The answer from the New York State Judicial System is a resounding NO, with the underlying fury of an angry stepfather that dares me to even think about asking the question again.