Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, my father, along with four uncles who were police officers, taught me from an early age on how to deal with law enforcement. To a man, they advised me to say the least amount possible and comply with the officer’s orders.
That advice was similar to what Charles Kinsey did. He complied with the officer’s orders. In his case, he got shot.
Kinsey, a behavioral therapist who was trying help an autistic patient of his, did what our “well-meaning” friends prop up as the “I can breathe because I obeyed the law” riot act when dealing with cops. From the footage of the shooting, Kinsey did just that and he still became a hashtag. He was lying on the ground with both hands up when he was shot.
(Photo Credit: miamiherald.com)
In my case, and Kinsey’s to a much higher degree, complying with police orders isn’t as simple as some folks make it out to be. Especially when there’s history of black men being shot by the police under questionable circumstances.
“I’m like this right here, and when he shot me, it was so surprising,” Kinsey said to reporters. “I thought it was a mosquito bite, and when it hit me I had my hands in the air, and I’m thinking I just got shot! And I’m saying, ‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’ and his words to me were, ‘I don’t know.”
When a black man is shot by the police, we already know who is going to say what. It’s like these folks read from flash cards.
John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, told reporters on Thursday the police narrative.
“There was a call about a suicidal man with a gun, the officers already heard that. When they arrived they saw two men, Mr. Kinsey and the other individual, the white male, and it appeared to the officers that the white male was trying to do harm to Mr. Kinsey. The officers, realizing and believing that there was a firearm, and many officers thought the white male had a firearm, only much later when we were able to Monday morning quarterback do we find out it was a toy. Only much later do we find out that the individual was autistic. The officers on the scene did not know that. And fearing for Mr. Kinsey’s life, the officer discharged his firearm, trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life. And he missed, and accidentally struck Mr. Kinsey. He thought the white male and his actions were such that he felt Mr. Kinsey’s life was in danger.”
Next, our Facebook friends will post wildly inaccurate memes based on their jobs and political beliefs.
I often wonder why so many people who appeared to be intelligent otherwise, would all of a sudden care what black people think about police shootings. They start to ask the all too familiar racially-loaded questions “Where’s Black Lives Matter??” “Why are they protesting??” And my personal favorite, “What about Chicago??”
And for us who work in the media, we’ll get that email from a reader that starts off with, “I’m not racist but…”
These days, it is easy to think that these narratives took shape before our eyes on social media. However, these narratives started in the classroom.
All of this got me thinking about of the vitriol protesters have gotten in recent years. After all, history shows that they’re doing the same thing the colonists and the activists during the Civil Rights Movement did. They made attempts to disrupt a system that oppressed them. Whether it was throwing tea into the Boston Harbor or staging sit-ins at restaurants that denied entry to black people, the oppressed wanted the attention of the oppressor.
Earlier this week, I used all of the social media platforms I frequent to ask my friends who aren’t black what they learned in school about Black history. Some of what I read was downright shocking. The answers varied from “Racism ended with Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, “Racism was a southern problem,” to “I learned about black history from watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
Even some of us who went to all-black schools were given a “safe” version of Dr. King in history class. We knew the excerpt from the “I Had A Dream” speech that said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Why wasn’t Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” mentioned? Maybe that’s because it challenged the narrative the powers-that-be wanted to portray of the Civil Rights Movement. This excerpt may have made Dr. King appear as being militant.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
I guess that explains why so many folks like former congressman Joe Walsh, who said King wouldn’t agree with Black Lives Matter because he “believed” that All Lives Matter, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who said that the activists should protest in a “King-ian” fashion, and others who continue to whitewash Dr.King’s history in activism.
It seems like Walsh nor Reed didn’t see the footage of angry white people throwing rocks at Dr. King when he took the Civil Rights Movement to Chicago.
After what Kinsey and the police said about the incident, along with what we weren’t told about in history class, what does that tell black folks? No matter what you do, you’re going shot?
Kinsey did what he was told and he’s sitting in a hospital bed.
Is that an indictment on all cops? Of course not. But is it definitely more evidence that says there’s a problem with policing in this country? Hell yeah.
As someone who covers a lot of protests, interacts with cops, activists, along with reading the pro-cop blogs, and the dreaded comment section, a lot of folks thrive on dissent. They have no interest in working together.
They only care about themselves.
After all, the current election cycle shows that keeping people at odds is a profitable endeavor.