Sunday, November 23, 2014

On the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy by the police.

This morning, a 12-year-old boy died in Cleveland of injuries he received yesterday when he was shot by a police officer.

The first news I saw of this was a tweet in which the twitterer expressed sympathy for the family and worried that "things could get ugly".

Those four words complete the circle. They explain what killed this American child. (These are our children, America.)

Faced with an appalling incident of white-on-black violence, the twitterer was afraid of what black people might do. The only white-majority nation ever to elect a black head of state is still terrified of black people.

The electorate is still capable of hearing about the violent death of a black child and worrying that... that... that someone might get hurt?

That the response might be anger?

It is.

If you've ever lost someone close to you, you know that anger is always part of the response, even if the cause was an incurable disease. (Why didn't someone cure it?!) Now imagine how angry you might be if someone killed your child because they were afraid of him.

(These are our children, America.)

The black community will be expected (by America) to grieve in a way that unnaturally suppresses anger. Any expression of anger that occurs will be magnified in the media, and the fear will be fed, and the cycle will continue.

And don't expect the media to forego the traditional demonization of the victim just because he was


So far what we've heard is that the assailant was a rookie cop. This is the second fatal shooting of an unarmed black person by a "rookie cop" in two days. We'll be asked to sympathize with his fear and inexperience.

Against the fear and inexperience of a child.

A mature media would ask the following questions. Since we don't have such a media, let's ask them of ourselves:

  • Is something being said, officially or sub rosa, to trainee police officers that is making them afraid of black people?
  • If trainees are already afraid of black people before their training, shouldn't someone else be recruited, someone who's not afraid of black people?
  • Can prospective trainees be tested for a fear of black people? (Tests exist.)
  • If "rookie cops" have an increased tendency to shoot unarmed people (something that may or may not be true, but that we're being tacitly asked to accept), should "rookie cops" perhaps go unarmed?

I don't know much about how police officers are selected, but I know how teachers are. And there is a winnowing that goes on at all phases of the process. Any discomfort with people of other races, religions, or nationalities is (ideally) identified, and addressed. When all else fails, it's addressed by taking the aspirant gently by the arm and leading him or her to the door marked EXIT.

It's time the same standard was applied to police officers.

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