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Reaching the Breaking Point: When is Enough…Enough?

Police officers face off with protesters on Interstate 85 in Charlotte, N.C., during demonstrations following the death of a man shot by a police officer on Tuesday. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Police officers face off with protesters on Interstate 85 in Charlotte, N.C., during demonstrations following the death of a man shot by a police officer on Tuesday.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Things are getting hot in Charlotte, with the police shooting death of another Black man, this time Keith Lamont Scott. This comes on the heels of the killing of Terence Crutcher last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All of this begs the question: What will it take for Black people to finally say enough is enough?

On Tuesday night, Scott, 43, was shot by police outside an apartment complex. Police claim, per local news reports, that the man was armed. However, Scott’s daughter had a completely different account, insisting that he was unarmed and reading a book in his car when the police came and took his life. Mr. Scott was also reportedly disabled.

“My daddy didn’t do nothing; they just pulled up undercover,” she said in the video of the incident.

Black people are not taking this well, in light of an onslaught of successive police shootings across the nation. Several protesters and a dozen police officers were injured in protests Tuesday, with at least seven civilians taken to a local hospital and treated, according to ABC News. Police in riot gear used tear gas on the crowd, and a group of protesters blocked traffic on Interstate 85, with reports early Wednesday morning of people looting trucks and burning the contents, as USA Today reported. Video accounts of the protests, however, tell the story and reflect the outrage of the community:

CMPD killed a disabled man today

A video posted by Juan Lenin (@ho0zythinkyiz) on

At a press conference on Wednesday morning, civil rights activists and religious leaders expressed the pain and anger of the community, declaring that the community is witnessing a lynching, calling for an economic boycott of Charlotte, and urging white religious leaders to step up.

Martin Luther King understood what happens when Black people reach the breaking point and rise up.  Call them riots, call them urban rebellions, or uprisings, King knew what happens when those seeking justice are fed up and ignored.  “And I contend this cry of ‘Black Power’ is at bottom a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice the reality for the Negro,” King said in a comment to Mike Wallace of CBS News in 1966, speaking of the riots occurring in Black communities at that time.  “I think we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard and what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear the economic plight of the Negro poor which has worsened over the last few years,” he added.

In a similar vein, Malcolm X noted that in light of President Kennedy sent troops into Birmingham, Alabama only after Black people “showed they were fed up, that they were capable of retaliating against the injustices that were being inflicted upon them by the whites.”

The murder of Keith Lamont Scott by police and the aftermath reminds Black people that murder is the default setting employed by this society when it deals with us.  And it was always like this, just as it was with the slave patrols in the days of our enslavement, and the police Klansmen during Jim Crow and the civil rights movement–with the exception that there was no social media and there were no cellphone cameras.  What has not changed is that Black people find themselves hanging by a thread, unsupported and suffering in a nation whose institutions are not designed for them. We are deemed a criminal element, our very public presence is viewed as suspect, and our lives are in constant danger from the onslaught of official violence.  This is why some decide to protest, whether at football games or in the streets.

“It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, 6, or 7 to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you,” as James Baldwin once said. “It comes as a great shock to see Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, and although you are rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians are you.”

Has Black America finally reached the tipping point?

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