On December, 28th, 2015, officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback received no indictment for their involvement in the shooting and killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November of last year. On November 22, 2014, Rice sat outside of a recreation center when someone called 911 to make a complaint about someone holding a gun and scaring people. Though the caller told dispatchers that the person could have been a kid and that the gun was “probably fake,” the two officers never received that information, which led to a less-than-2-second encounter that ended with a dead 12-year-old.
On that day, the legal system decided that 2 seconds is enough time to determine that a child needs to die.
Just one week ago, a Texas grand jury decided not to indict the jailers involved in the death of Sandra Bland. On July 10, 2015, Bland allegedly failed to use her turn signal for a lane change, was arrested and accused of assaulting an officer during her traffic stop, then just 3 days later, she was found dead in a jail cell. The jailers’ explanation was that Bland has hung herself, though everyone who knew her said that suicide was completely “unfathomable” for her. Just from watching her videos and seeing how full of positivity she was, I find it hard to come to the conclusion that after three days in jail she would decide to end her life.
Meanwhile, on Christmas day, a white woman named Elaine Rothenberg circled a police station in Connecticut with a fake gun, pointing it at the officers. Guess where she is? Not lying dead on the pavement, that’s for sure. Sure, she is in jail and therefore has a chance of ending up like Sandra Bland, but as Bernie Sanders pointed out after the Bland grand jury decision, Rothenberg’s whiteness will likely keep her safe.
So we are at the end of 2015, completely unsurprised at the lack of justice for black citizens of this country. Honestly, there is simply not enough energy to be surprised by these things anymore. Eric Garner and Mike Brown were also denied justice for their murders in 2014. Clinton Allen and Ramarley Graham were denied theirs in 2013. The American justice system has set up a trend of giving police officers ultimate authority over black citizens, often allowing them to decide on the spot whether or not a black person deserves to live or die.
Then these grand juries, which I doubt are comprised of people who look like the victim, absolve the officers of any guilt through “thorough” investigations of the killings, that include digging up as much filth on the dead person as possible while failing to look critically at the ones who actually pulled the triggers. White people with the smallest amount of authority become shielded by the law that they have sworn to uphold. They become impervious to fault, to blame, and to consequence. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed by police in America in 2015. That number is staggering, but clearly not enough to discuss policy reform for officers. What will it take, then, to shock policy-makers into taking these matters seriously?
More importantly, what are people of color supposed to do in the meantime?
I find it challenging to remain optimistic and encouraged by the many successes that black people have had in the past year, from the resignation of Mizzou’s president to the production of a live television version of The Wiz, when it seems like for every win, the black community must suffer heart-wrenching loss. It’s hard to keep up with every new hashtag, every new story covering another black man, woman, or child killed by white supremacy.
I am black and a woman and under the thumbs of white supremacy and patriarchy at the same time. Though I am competing against a system that treats white people, especially white men, like deities, I am showing resistance just by existing. And with growing support and solidarity for movements like “Black Lives Matter,” I am confident in the abilities of my people to comfort each other in times like this, to care for each other during the good times, and to create long-lasting change that will improve the qualities of life for the coming generations of Tamir Rices and Sandra Blands.