Trigger warning: this story contains potentially distressing material and language about police brutality and murder.
After a six hour standoff with police in Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco on Sept. 24, a 40-year-old White man was taken into custody alive. The gunman waved a semi-automatic weapon around, pointing it at himself and police and was still taken into custody with no bodily harm.
Why is a White man who threatens the lives of officers and civilians with a weapon treated as mentally ill and nonviolently detained while Black men and women can’t play with toys in Wal-Mart, play music, ask for help after an accident, drive, ride public transit or wear hoodies without being murdered by those who are meant to protect and serve?
Many Black men and women who live through the initial encounter with an officer somehow still end up taking their last breath in the custody of law enforcement.
Freddie Gray was arrested for simply running at the sight of police. Once he was taken into custody, he supposedly severed his own spine. He was refused medical treatment before transport and was not strapped in while in the back of the police van.
Gray was handcuffed and stuffed in the back of the van for almost half an hour before making it to the station. There, he was eventually examined, which found that his spine had been 80 percent severed at his neck.
Sandra Bland, a vibrant and positive woman to those who knew her, was arrested for a burnt out taillight and was later found dead in her cell.
Charles Kinsey, a therapist, was trying to protect one of his autistic patients when he was shot while lying down with his hands in the air. Kinsey was trying to help a man with autism, and despite being unarmed and compliant, he was still shot.
Critics of police violence point to incidents like these as examples of disgusting negligence and systemic anti-Black policing.
Recently, a woman called police because her brother was displaying unusual behaviour. Once police arrived, Alfred Olango was pacing with his hand in his pockets. Police gave him orders he did not respond to at which point Olango pulled a vape pen from his pockets.
Suddenly, Olango dropped to the ground, fatally shot. During the altercation, Olango’s sister desperately screamed that her brother is mentally ill. This man was only given mere minutes to live from the second police arrived on scene.
And yet, when the terrorist — yes, the terrorist — Dylan Roof was detained, he was fit with a bullet proof vest to protect him from angry civilians and was then fed Burger King from the officers. He murdered nine people and was given five star treatment.
Police in this country are not protecting and serving their communities and never have. You cannot protect and serve a neighborhood when you gun half of it down.
Since 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started protesting the national anthem, more than 67 people have died at the hands of the police in the U.S.
But despite all of this evidence of brutality and injustice, some people still defend the actions of police officers. They say “comply,” and “don’t act ghetto.” They say “don’t break the law,” and “stop resisting.” But for every single one of these “solutions” people offer in defense of the unjust murders, there has been a Black man or woman who has died despite doing everything right.
I am going to call this what it is: the systematic killing of Black men and women.
In this country, you can’t be Black and be disabled, a scholar, homeless, a victim, an innocent child, homeowner or successful without being questioned, without being harassed and without dying.
So open your eyes and see the injustice. Close your mouth and listen to those who mourn. Remember the names that trend on Twitter and Facebook and see them as more than just hashtags. Be an ally without taking from or disempowering others. And remember, Black lives matter.