Sensitivity to a particular stimulus is a part of being human. Despite what some of us may wish to believe, life is all about how we respond and react to our respective environments. These reactions are what make us who we are. On July 19, 2015 43-year-old Sam DuBose was driving in the Mount Auburn area on Rice Street at 6:30 in the evening when he was pulled over by Officer Ray Tensing of the University of Cincinnati Police force.
The stop began routinely enough.
Officer Tensing asked for Mr. DuBose’s license and registration, to which Mr. DuBose asked why he was pulled over. The officer then advised the driver that he was pulled over for not having a license plate affixed to his front bumper. The exchange went back and forth between Mr. DuBose attempting to explain why he did not have his license with him and the officer repeatedly asking why he didn’t have his license with him.
The officer eventually noticed a container in the vehicle that appeared to be alcohol, but DuBose told him it was actually air freshener and that he could smell it if he wished.
At this point everything still appears to be very much going the way any normal traffic stop should. The officer’s requests are being obeyed. Then he returns to the line of questioning regarding his license and why he doesn’t have it readily available. Appearing slightly confused, DuBose repeatedly taps his pockets while assuring the officer that he does have a license but simply does not have it on him.
DuBose places his hand on the interior car door as the officer is telling him to take his seatbelt off. On the video the listener can audibly hear the tell-tale sound of a seat belt strap recoiling. It's not certain whether DuBose took the seat belt off on the officer. A split second later the officer can be heard yelling “Stop, Stop” as DuBose appears to turn the key in the ignition. The cop fired a single shot that struck DuBose in the head, killing him instantly from the looks of it.
In its postmortem state, DuBose’s body seized up, his foot smashing the gas pedal and caused the car to speed off out of control, striking a defense and a guard rail, before coming to a stop a block away.
Reactions and counter reactions are what make us who we are. Officer Tensing’s initial reaction was to tell the other responding officers on the scene that DuBose was dragging him as he sped off. Those officers reiterated that lie in their respective police reports. This lie would have gone unchecked had it not been for the body camera that Officer Tensing was wearing, as well as the cameras of the other responding officers.
As was mentioned in the opening sentence of this article, human beings are a bunch of reactions to a bunch of different stimuli. Those reactions do not end until we are no longer able to act due to death.
Our views of one another are never absolute. We can only judge an individual’s intent based upon witnessing him or her respond to a stimulus. Then, we respond in kind to the individual.
In the case of the now former officer, Hamilton County (OH) Prosecutor Joe Deters responded with the following statement: "It's an absolute tragedy that anyone would behave in this manner," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said after publicly releasing the video. "It was senseless. It's just horrible.
"He purposefully killed him."
"He wasn't dealing with someone wanted for murder. He was dealing with someone without a front license plate," Deters said, describing that offense as "chicken crap stuff."
"Some people want to believe Mr. DuBose did something violent toward the officer," Deters said. "He did not. He did not at all."
So here we have a collision of stimulus and reaction that has left a man dead, and another defending himself.
We have a Black man, who was wearing all red (a popular gang color in Black and Hispanic communities), driving a car without a front license plate. The officer sees the license plate and the red (hat, shirt and shorts) and pulls Mr. DuBose over. Seconds later Mr. DuBose is dead.
Stimuli and reaction don’t occur in a vacuum but in the real world. A world filled with preconceived notions about race, one in which Black males are actively and passively being eliminated by the powers that be. Mr. DuBose initial feelings of trepidation, as well as his line of questioning to the officer as to why he was stopped, were all completely natural considering the historical context of it all.
The prosecutor went on to say that DuBose had marijuana and $2,600 on his person but followed that by saying he did not deserve to die for that.
Mr. Ray Tensing was arraigned in court on Wednesday and was fired by the University of Cincinnati police department on the same day. He was indicted on murder and voluntary manslaughter. Tensing plead not guilty.
On Thursday Tensing was released on $1 million bail thanks to donations that poured in from across the nation.
A Black man murdered.
A White Cop indicted.
A majority White country reacts by bailing him out even when the prosecutor, who is normally pro cop in most circumstances, says this was an act of murder.
What does this say about this country and how it views Black people? What should Black folks' reaction be?
Epilogue: Somewhere a White person weeps for an African lion and a Black person’s heart is hardened evermore.