Say his name.
“I can't breathe.”
Say his name.
“I can't breathe.”
Tamir Rice. Dead at 12. Walter Scott, shot in the back five times. Freddie Gray, a spinal cord nearly severed in custody. Jamar Clark, killed by police in Minneapolis under murky circumstances. Philando Castile, St. Paul. His crime? Faulty brake lights. The sentence? Five bullets. Stephon Clark, Sacramento. Shot dead in his grandmother's backyard while armed with a cellphone. Bothham Jean. Murdered in his apartment by an off-duty officer. Travon Martin, dead at the hands of a wannabe cop. You can't wear a hoodie or eat Skittles or be in the wrong neighborhood. Ahmaud Arbery, gunned down by two Georgia vigilantes, one an ex-cop. Because only white people can jog. Young black men must be fleeing.
Say their names.
Shall I continue? Or can we agree that the issue is real? That the anger is justified? And can we set aside the deflections? Looters ... vandals ... agent provocateurs ... rocks ... AR-15s ... organized anarchists ... unorganized opportunists ... locals ... outsiders. You miss the point. America isn't working.
Whether it's young black men or middle-aged white militiamen storming state capitols with semi automatics, people lash out when they feel cheated, threatened, and hopeless. When they feel they've got nothing to lose.
All you have to do is light the fuse. The dynamite's always been here.
Protests are born of dissatisfaction. Riots are born of inequality and injustice. Slavery. The Indian genocide. The looting of tribal lands. It's not looting when white people do it, though. It's called a treaty. And you'll take this pipeline, like it or not.
“Get over it,” says the guy lining up a putt at the country club. “What's past is past.”
But it's not. They're not scars. They're gaping wounds.
Remember Furguson, Mo.? In a three-year span, black Americans — 67% of the population there — accounted for 93% of arrests. They were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched but were 26% less likely to have illegal drugs or weapons.
In Boston, between 2007 and 2010, 63% of stop-and-frisk encounters involved black Americans, who make up 24% of the population. Just 2.5% of these harassments resulted in arrest or confiscation of contraband. In the land of the free.
Government data reveals that male black drug traffickers receive sentences 10% longer than their white counterparts. It's not just overt racism, though. In America, justice is a matter of economics. According to the Brookings Institute, in 2016, the net worth of a typical white family was, $171,000 — 10 times greater than that of black families — so statistically, a white criminal is better able to afford bail and better legal defense, and let's face it, right up to the highest office in the land, with enough money and lawyers, you can get away with anything.
Inequality. Systemic racism. Repression. In the absence of leadership, an increasingly abusive, authoritarian system. A thug president who foments division and anarchy.
The evidence is overwhelming. Guilty. America is guilty. You, Senator Chickenheart. Guilty. You, in the easy chair. Guilty. Because you see what's happening and won't do anything about it. Because it's not happening to you.
This is America. Liberty for some. Justice for some.
Admit it. Just admit it.
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service.