Saturday 28 January 2023
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Black Victims Face a Conundrum When Confronted By Police

Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry


wallace_mabryA crime has not always occurred whenever a black man, woman, or child has been shot dead by a white police officer.

Extenuating circumstances, determined to have been in existence at the time of the shooting, frequently lead the justice process to extrapolate and rule out murder.

The black victim is reported to have not been altogether innocent, due to some behavior, on the part of the black victim, which may have led the officer to feel or believe his life was being threatened, and in that respect, the shooting death was an excusable error.

Having now been alerted to those simple details and facts, the message most clearly being forwarded is that black people, black males in particular, must begin to present themselves as being in complete compliance when confronted by the police.

If, by chance, the black male is in an agitated state and he is emotionally distraught prior to the arrival of the police, that male, if he intends to survive the encounter with the police, must, immediately, shutdown his agitation, and his emotions,  prior to the arrival of the police on the scene. That is basic to his survival.

In accord with the general notion of the American society, everyone is obligated to comply with the demands of the police.  “Hey, you?  Stop!  Come here!  What’s your name?  What are you doing here?  Where do you live?  Turn around!  Don’t move!  You have any weapons or sharp objects on you?  Place your hands behind your back!”  Those demands may not be common to the white community.  They are, however, to the community of black males.

Failure on the part of a black male to comply with those instructions will always result in physical consequences, and sometimes death.

I am no alarmist, but it seems to me that black males are being pushed to the point where confrontation is welcomed by police departments. The law is on their side, and the interpretation of the law is in the hands of prosecutors, lawyers who, through their mastery of semantics, hold forth before closed sessions of grand juries, and turn facts into mere speculation.

The result, of course, is that guilty white police officers are found not guilty of crimes, and murder becomes the battle cry of protesters, marching with placards and bellowing the injustice of it all before some microphone on TV.

I do not imagine much so-called justice will come of those displays.  Black people have a long history of marching up and down the street, across the country, gathering in front of city halls, government offices, police precincts, and scenes of police killings, singing in lamentation, and carrying on about the elusiveness of a fair judicial process.

It would seem that a better way to resolve our anger is to come to the realization that fair is not equal.  While the concepts can be juxtaposed with each other, they do not carry the same values.  There are a plethora of societal examples to that effect, and the reader can draw his or her own parallel from any number of them.

One example I might put forward is a visit I made recently to a home in December, in response to a child protective services (CPS) report.  Previous to my visit, a white child protective supervisor had made the initial visit to the home, and his knocks on the door did not result in anyone responding.  As he was walking down the steps away from the door, he saw a young black child looking out the window of the home.  He called to the child who moved away from the window and was obscured from view by a curtain.

The supervisor knocked on the window, and then again on the door calling for whoever was inside to come to the door or he would call the police. When no one came to the door, he called the police.  A number of police officers responded including a sergeant. When the child would not open the door for the officers, the sergeant gave the order for the door to be kicked open.  When the officers entered the home and began checking for the child, four children were found hiding in an upstairs closet.  Three of the children came out, and one told the officers that his brother was still in the closet.

The oldest of the children, a 13 year-old black male, was ordered out of the closet. When the child came out of the closet he was immediately handcuffed, asked if he had any sharp objects on his person, and then searched. The 13 year-old asked the officers if they had a search warrant to enter the home. The child was told that he did not ask questions. He answered them.

The police explained the child was handcuffed and searched because he had been hiding in the closet, and did not come out as the others had when the order to come out was issued. When the child was asked why he did not open the door when he was ordered to by the police, the child replied that his mother had given him strict instructions not to open the door to anyone.

After determining the children were safe with the 13 year-old in charge who had a cell phone, and could call 911 in an emergency, the CPS supervisor and the police left the home, leaving the children home alone with a broken door that could no longer be locked for their safety.

It is important to note that the home was located in a neighborhood where prostitution, drug dealing, and sundry other criminal activities were rampant.

When I met with the mother, she asked a pertinent question. How can CPS and the police, who are supposed to be concerned about the safety of children, leave her children home alone in a house whose door could no longer be locked and secured because they had kicked the door in?

The how is, they could because they were all white, and they had no vested interest in any safety concerns for the black children. The why is, because they were primarily concerned that when they knock on a door, whoever is home opens it, notwithstanding a black mother’s strict instructions not to open the door to anyone. And, in that respect, they did not need a search warrant.