As we approach the one-year anniversary of the death of unarmed Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, a slow but discernable shift is occurring among some public officials in response to the heightened public awareness brought on by the Black Lives Matter social justice movement. This shift is seen in the legal response of the killing of unarmed African American Samuel Debose in Cincinnati. The point-blank murder of another unarmed African American by a police officer is unusual in only that a prosecutor choose to do his job and charge the cop for murder.
The prosecutor in this case, however, appears shocked at this incident which is actually part of a larger pattern of racial oppression carried out under the watch of prosecutors across the nations. He claims,
“This doesn’t happen in the United States, OK? This might happen in Afghanistan. People don’t get shot for a traffic stop.”
Too many examples to counter this assertion of American exceptionalism, but isn’t the prosecutor aware of his own state news from just a couple months ago when Cleveland police officers were acquitted for the fatal shootings of two unarmed African Americans sitting in their own car – with 137 shots? The prosecutor in that case who unsuccessfully tried the Cleveland cops compared the police defendants to an “organized crime syndicate” for their lack of cooperation in the case in their practice of engaging in the unwritten Blue-Wall-of-Silence.
In Urban America and its Police: From the Postcolonial Era through the Turbulent 1960s, Harlan Hahn and Judson Jefferies provide insights on the policing of Black actions from private slave patrols to the rise of modern urban police departments:
“The primary objective of white voters and politicians was to prevent both slave and free black persons from disrupting a segregated social structure, and the police served as an essential instrument of that policy.”
This historical pattern that has provided police impunity in their use of violence on Blacks continues, but through the unceasing Black Lives Matter movement we are witnessing a small but significant disruptions to this system.