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When Will Black Lives Matter?

Dr._Faye WilliamsOp/ed by Dr. E. Faye Williams,

( – A few days ago, a most amazing event occurred in the United States! You may have heard about it. Although I had background information on the event in question, the last thing I would have expected occurred. Two Albuquerque, New Mexico police officers were indicted by Bernalillo County District Atty. Kari Brandenburg, for the murder of a homeless citizen. Using the evidence at hand and her own balanced judgment, Brandenburg dismissed the idea of convening a Grand Jury. Taking personal initiative, she issued indictments against former Albuquerque Police Department Detective Keith Sandy and APD SWAT Team member Dominique Perez with one open count of murder each in the March 2014 shooting death of James Boyd. They are expected to go to trial later this year.

James Boyd was 36 year old. He was homeless, and diagnosed as schizophrenic. His alleged crime was camping illegally. He engaged in a video-recorded, four-hour standoff with police. He was reportedly armed with two small knives and a dog. His mistake, according to the police, was that he made a “threatening” move toward an officer with the dog. By the way, he was White.

The measure and worth of James Boyd’s life will be determined in a court of law. The justice he receives will be determined by a jury or by the discretion of a judge in a bench trial. Whatever the outcome, the guilt or innocence of his assailants will be determined on the basis of evidence instead of personal or institutional bias.

Some who read this will say that there was no reason to bring Boyd’s race into the discussion, but I think that to be the most salient point. When compared with the adjudication of events involving the recent homicides of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, the outcomes suggest that, in the operational minds of Law Enforcement, the Judicial System and the Media, Black Lives Don’t Matter!

In December 2014, the personnel reports of Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland Police Officer who shot Tamir Rice, were disclosed for the period of time that he was employed by the Independence, Ohio Police Department. His fitness report included such supervisory assessments as: “a pattern of lack of maturity, indiscretion and not following instructions,” a “dangerous loss of composure during live range training” and an “inability to manage personal stress.” One assessement about his conduct: “I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies…”

With all of these noted deficiencies, the Grand Jury and the media “excused” Loehmann of the murder he committed. This disparity of respect and concern exists on an even greater scale when we consider the US and media view of the world.

For well over a week, we have been inundated with news coming from France about the Charlie Hebdo massacre and subsequent episodes of violence. I vividly recall that reports over the news outlets were disproportionately skewed toward the news from France. Only September 11, 2001, the assassination of JFK, and the death of Elvis similarly captured the focus of the news. Reports from France indicate a death toll around 20. I share the grief of that nation and families affected by the loss of loved ones. I’m stirred by their renewed sense of patriotism and commitment to ending terrorism and the negative impact of “evil men” upon the innocent.

While I abhor violence of any kind and the wanton taking of life, I wonder how the world can have such remorse about 20 people in France while Boko Haram in Nigeria is conducting a massacre that has already minimally claimed an estimated 2,000 plus people’s lives – and this with little reporting from major media outlets.

The most important question for me may be, “When will Black Lives Matter?’
(E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women. 202/678-6788.