For those who justify police brutality,
Whether it’s from the comment section of an article, a post on social media, or expressions of solidarity on TV, we’ve all heard statements like, “He was a great kid. He was the smartest in his class, went to church twice a week, and always respected the law. The police had no reason to kill him.” While I do understand this response to murder, I can’t help but cringe, not because I’m doubting its validity, but because of what it means on the subconscious level. This mentality condemns murder because of who it was done to, as opposed to the act of murder itself, and it opens up room for victim blaming.
Before being killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer during a traffic stop on July 19, 2015, Sam Dubose had apparently been cited or arrested 90 times. Not surprisingly, this background information became the focus and was used to justify his murder. The three videos produced by the officers’ body cameras disprove the officers’ claim that officer Tensing, alleged murderer, was “dragged” by the victim's car. They demystify the events leading up to the shooting, portraying a completely unjust murder. When Samuel Dubose is told to remove his seatbelt, he starts his car and the officer takes this opportunity, after telling Dubose to stop, to shoot him in the head. Dubose is killed on spot and his lifeless foot hits the gas pedal and moves the car forward with the officers chasing behind. Mr. Dubose may have had a record, but at the time of the stop, the officers had no access to this information. His life was taken as he was there -- a middle-aged Black man with no weapons in the driver’s seat of his car. He was killed and the police lied.
In the case of Michael Brown, most people agreed his murder was unjust until an unrelated video surfaced of him supposedly robbing a convenience store, pictures popped up of him flipping off the camera, throwing up gang signs, smoking weed, flaunting a gun, etc. While it’s unknown whether or not those pictures and video were really him, the point we seem to neglect is that these depictions are irrelevant. In the same way that sex workers can be raped, the immorality of murder cannot be contingent upon the subjective perception of the victim’s worth in a so-called just society.
What about someone like Tamir Rice? Perhaps his killer truly felt endangered due to the presence of a toy gun. Even so, if police can justly murder, what differentiates them from simply being self-defending citizens? In the same way a firefighter understands the danger of running into a burning building, police officers should be expected to protect all life, even if it means endangering their own. This doesn’t mean that police should walk around with targets on their foreheads, but it does mean that lethal force should be the absolute last option, after all other tactics have been deployed. I believe this is more than possible, considering the countless times police officers have effectively de-escalated dangerous situations involving White suspects.
If Black lives truly matter, then all Black lives matter, regardless of whether they are perceived as pillars of the community or considered to be worthless. I do not expect the mainstream media to be conscious of this, as it has shown to have its own agenda, but as members of this movement we must remember to be careful about how we discuss police murder. Although it seems minuscule, the language used can cause a lot of damage.