Here is a fact that is going to sound a lot like an opinion: If Betty Shelby was not a police officer, we would have more than enough evidence to give her a life sentence. Here is a fact that is going to sound a lot like premature pessimism: She will walk free and with minimal consequences. Here is a fact that is going to sound a lot like a broken record: White people just do not get it. Finally, here is a fact that you need to know while you read this: I am white.
I have tried to defend police officers in the confines of my comfortable world and in many cases, I do still feel as though some shootings of black individuals are justified based only on the notion that I would have done the same thing under the circumstances. In fact, it is true that most black people do not empathize with the police any more than most white people empathize with black people. Police officers do fear for their lives and civilians should not enhance that fear. However, while part of Milwaukee was torn to shambles unrightfully after a black cop killed a black man within reason, the black people I know did not argue that Sylville Smith should not have been shot. If white people are going to claim it is unfair to judge police based off of a few bad apples, then it is only appropriate to not point fingers at looters and rioters and say “see there- they are like that.” The fact of the matter is the black people I know are upset about injustice, not about warranted self-defense.
Answer me something- if your spouse was shot and left behind only their reflection in the four kids you had together, how would you feel about the footage you saw? Would you still say they should have followed instructions then? Would you pop off at the mouth that there must be more to the tape or that they had a dark past? No! I watched Charles Kinsey get shot with his hands up while lying on the ground next to his patient, and I’ve seen people convicted quickly with much less evidence available than in the case of Betty Shelby. The problem is not that black people need to learn to obey orders. The problem is that white people think the case is closed when they don’t entirely. It has been a while since I have interacted with a police officer, but I will always remember the feeling the times that I have. That nervousness, panic and worry, I’d imagine, would only be escalated if my skin was a different color. All of a sudden following orders, after what I have seen, seems much easier said than done. I would not want to be black and pulled over right now.
I have tried to resist a truth that is undeniable before us. I have countered the argument that there are more white people in the United States than black people, thus explaining why almost as many whites are killed by the police than blacks, with an argument of my own that it is not about total population, but rather about total interactions, and statistics show that there are more interactions with cops and blacks than cops and whites. There is one flaw with that stance, though- the same one I stressed earlier: The black people I know are not upset about warranted self-defense. They are upset about injustice. The only police officers who have killed a black individual and landed themselves in jail are the ones where even Ray Charles would say “yes, this one seems pretty clear to me.” When ambiguity exists in a civilian’s case, the police are able to put the puzzle pieces together and lay down the hammer. When ambiguity exists in a police officer’s case, mysteriously the model to go by is missing. Even more peculiar is that any outsider can figure out what the justice system cannot- that sometimes cops are guilty.
But that is not what this piece is about, is it? I’m sure that black people are frustrated that it is now 2016 and they are still not protected by all protectors. Most? Yes. All? No. And unfortunately for those who wear the badge, zero is the only margin of error we the people are willing to accept. Or is it? That is what this blog is actually discussing- the fact that white people are on megaphones about Colin Kaepernick, but mice about Terence Crutcher. I disagree with Kaepernick’s actions (I agree with his motive). I’m fine with him raising his arm during the anthem like others are doing, but I believe he should stand on his own two feet because to me, whether he says he means no disrespect to our military or not, people of all races have died, are dying, and will continue to die just as inexplicably as the individuals he is kneeling for. Black people may not agree with my views on that, but that’s the thing- we don’t have to agree on every single aspect of every single topic. We just have to take our race aside and understand that Terence Crutcher lost his life over a stalled vehicle, and that is not acceptable and should not be acceptable to anyone.
Furthermore, I would hope those reading this would respect that, with me on my opinion or not, I am just as vocal when whites are in the wrong as I am when they have a valid defense. It is called having a mind of my own free of bias, and it allows me to view each situation as it is rather than how my same-colored peers want me to feel about it. Really, all races could stand to have the same approach of moral reasoning.
So, while it may be unpopular to my fellow whites, with all due respect, I’m going to be loud on what I believe to be wrong. I’m going to be blunt- if the first words out of your mouth after watching Terence Crutcher shot to death are “he should have listened to them. They were pointing a gun at him,” I’m going to call you heartless. Would listening have saved his life? Probably, but even that’s debatable these days. The better question to ask is “as a human-being, do I believe this man should have been killed?” If the answer for you is yes, then you can quit reading now. You have nothing to add to the table of meaningful conversation I haven’t heard before out of an entitled soul. But, if your answer is no and you really mean it, here is what you should do: Voice it. Add to the progress and defeat the division. We cannot leave black people alone in their efforts for a reason as simply put as…they are people. They are with us.
Unfortunately, if this exact same blog were written by a black man, it would be dismissed immediately by the white majority as “complaining and whining.” Since I, a white man, wrote it- what is there to say now? It is not okay that people are dying for absolutely no fathomable reason. What’s worse, it is not okay that white people are silent when the facts are unfavorable to a white cop. If change is going to happen, and believe it or not it could, it is going to have to start with the sixty-three percent of individuals in this nation (whites) being honest with themselves and saying “these people do not deserve this.” I’ll start that up. Will you join me?