It seems to be as common as breathing in cities and states across America: some police have bitten the apple and tasted the temptation to use lethal force on unarmed men and women.
Like an infected wound that began to spread into every area of American life, 2015 has been plagued with systemic race relations (lynching, marches, police brutality, unemployment, housing, poverty, educational divide, etc.) and African Americans are using their voices to ask “What’s Going On?”
The same question was passionately sung by Marvin Gaye in the early 70s, as he experienced the climate of his day: urban decay, environmental woes, military turbulence, police brutality, unemployment, poverty, civil unrest, and drug abuse.
Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying
The following SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) chant became a national news story as the nation heard about a University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity that was expelled from their school after racist chats. A video went public of them laughing, clapping, pumping their fist in the air, and singing a racist chant while on a private charter bus to a Founder’s Day date party.
The irony was that on the same day that the bus incident occurred, many individuals of various races arrived in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the most violent days in the Civil Rights Movement, the “Bloody Sunday” march of 1965 where police beat and tear-gassed peaceful protesters who were marching for voting rights.
Over the years the climate of race relations has not changed, and the symptom continues to run through life like a leaky faucet that America does not have the tools to fix. The individuals who arrived in Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary march, if asked, could sense that Marvin Gaye also understood their pain and frustrations of today.
Picket lines and picket signs, don’t punish me with brutality
In Charleston, S.C., Michael T. Slager, an active-duty cop, was caught on video allegedly planting a taser gun on an unarmed Black man, while also firing eight shots into his back. The man was fleeing at the time the shots were fired. The man was then handcuffed as he lay dying.
In Ferguson, Missouri an unarmed Black teenager was shot by a police officer. The police office was not indicted for his actions.
A funeral was held in Baltimore for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who died from spinal injuries sustained while in police custody. All six officers who were charged with criminal wrongdoings posted bail and are awaiting trial.
A Cleveland police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, as he played with a toy gun in a park. The boy died but the first story that went out blamed the boy for his own death until video footage told a different story.
A 73-year-old deputy in Oklahoma reached for his taser and pulled the trigger only to learn he held his handgun instead. An unarmed Black man was shot. The fatal mistake was caught on camera.
A 20-year-old Florida man, Dontrell Stephens, was unarmed and shot four times in the back while riding his bike. He had a cell phone in his hand. He survived the shooting but is now paralyzed from the waist down.
The social issues of today continue to be made visual thanks to news coverage and video footage of police corruption and cover up. If one remains tolerant of what is going on, one begins to lose their moral compass.
Citizens are saying no-longer will this behavior be tolerated, and no longer will law enforcement, hiding behind their shields, defend their actions of murder and brutality. African Americans need reassurance that things will get better.
Having police body cams, dash board cams, civilian complaint review boards, independent review boards, and electing people who reflect the community are ways to reassure citizens that their voices are being heard.
E. Ellis is a freelance writer that lives in Minneapolis.