There is a state of emergency in Charlotte, but where is the state of emergency for Black people?
There are a number of things that America does well. Jazz and the Blues is one example. Marching bands are another. And barbecue. Shooting down Black people is yet another thing for which this country is known, and it is one of the nation’s core competencies. Then there’s the riot police.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory — who has spent much of his time in office depriving Black people of the right to vote — issued a state of emergency and called in the National Guard, following public outrage, protests and unrest in connection with the murder by police of Keith Lamont Scott, a Black man. For a second night on Wednesday, the protests and the tensions continued, and the community anger did not subside.
“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated,” McCrory said in a statement. “I support and commend the law enforcement officials for their bravery and courage during this difficult situation.”
It makes you feel as if America is stuck on a default setting. Someone of color, unarmed and minding his or her own business, is gunned down like a rabid animal by police. Black people express their frustration not only over this incident, but over years — indeed generations — of injustice, disrespect, humiliation, state-sanctioned violence, gangsterism and thuggery, and the incessant, intrusive monitoring of our bodies and our comings and goings.
The Black response to this outrageous treatment manifests itself in peaceful protest, passive resistance and sometimes, situationally appropriate, raw and dirty urban rebellion. Because we can’t take it anymore. And who are we to judge those who have been given no options, and who have been shouting at high decibels for years — only to be met with deaf ears?
And that is when they bring in the riot police — armed up, swollen up riot police in black armor, with tanks, teargas, flash grenades and the best military hardware Uncle Sam can buy. Maybe these police even had “counterterrorism” training from the Israeli Defense Forces, where they have had much experience in containing, controlling and brutalizing their own version of Black folks.
“Violence is not the answer,” said Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts in a press conference on Thursday morning, pleading for calm and announcing the arrest of 44 people, as covered by MSNBC. This may be the case, but violence seems to be the solution prescribed when dealing with the Black community. If violence is not the answer, then it should not be the answer for what is forced upon the lives of African-Americans.
We are America’s problem to be managed, with forms of punishment designed specifically for us. They will throw us in prison when they have decided there will be no more employment or educational opportunities for us. They lock up our men, or kill them, then mock us when we are fatherless. They brutalize our women, men and children, and justify it by labeling us criminals. They tell us to comply with the cops, hold up our hands and we won’t get shot — then we hold up our hands and we end up dead.
We are killed when picking up our babies from school, we are killed while reading a book, shot to death while standing or sitting down, or running, or nothing at all. The police gun us down for weapons we did or did not have — and no one asked us if we were licensed to have one — or for wallets and cellphones that supposedly looked like a gun. Or a toy that looked like a gun. Ultimately, Blackness is the weapon in our possession, and for some police officers, that serves as sufficient grounds to shoot to kill.
Mass murderers and terror suspects are taken into custody alive, fresh from the horrific acts they just committed, and weapons in hand. And yet, Black people who did nothing at all — except claim African ancestry — are descended upon with brute force, cop cars everywhere and guns drawn and discharged at will.
White cops have a problem policing Black people because when they view themselves as an occupying force, they regard Black people as a criminal element. But it matters little if there are Black officers involved in the brutality — or even a Black police chief — when the patterns and practices of racial oppression are in place, and the racist assumptions regarding Black folks govern the policies.
When America thinks we will cause trouble, America is ready for us with the troops and riot gear. But when Black people are in trouble, there is no army to save us. There is simply silence.
So, this country is good at riot policing, but they can’t bring the structural change that would make the uprisings unnecessary.