Late Monday night, I got a message from a friend telling me there was a small protest going on in South Memphis. I was told a police officer shot a young man claiming he had a gun. It’s a narrative we’ve heard so many times before. Sadly, I thought to myself, “I wonder if the kid really had a gun?”. Then I went on Facebook and saw his mother on someone’s live feed. She was demanding answers. She wanted someone to produce a weapon, to see bullet casings, and for her sons hands to be tested for gunpowder residue. This woman clearly has watched enough news and TV to know a little something about this process.
I grew up in South Memphis and Westwood. We had cops patrolling constantly. I can’t say I had any great interactions with police as a kid. I remember leaving a corner store after getting the biggest bag of Frooties( basically flavored Tootsie Rolls) and walking my bike home because I broke the chain. I was pissed about the chain because my dad just bought the bike and told me not to let anyone ride it. Well, I let my friend ride it and he broke the chain! A white cop drove by and did a hard turn and ran on the curb in front of me. He asked me where I was going. I said home. He asked if I had stolen the bike. I said no. He said there’s been a kid stealing bikes in the area and someone said it was me. I started crying. He told me I was going to jail. He made me lay in the ground and went through my pockets. At this point, I urinated on myself. One of my neighbors saw this and came over and explained to the officer who I was and how I got the bike. The officer took my $5 bill and my Frooties and left without saying any apologies. I was 10 years old. Had my neighbor not shown up, the officer probably would have tried pinning some crime on me. Again, I was 10 years old.
Fast forward 25 years. I still have this not so great feeling about police and their practices. When I hear an officer involved shooting, I wonder if the police are being truthful. It’s their word vs yours. A young black male is no match for the police or judicial system. Then a bombshell occurred! Police Director Mike Rallings announced that 3 officers were relieved of duty because their body cameras weren’t activated or were turned off right before the shooting. That’s odd, right? Why would an officer not want this interaction recorded? Why would the only proof the victim have not be available? While this might be shocking to some who grew up away from crime or daily police interaction, this exact situation is sadly normal to a lot of Americans. Cops planting evidence, bogus charges, and an overuse of force are so common in communities of minorities. It’s an accepted reality and there seems to be more and more instances happening.
I won’t go into why people protest, why citizens don’t trust police, why Colin Kaepernick and other players kneel, or any of that. Those things are brutally obvious especially after this incident. I also don’t think all cops are bad. I just want to leave you with a couple things to think about. Why would a police officer turn off his body camera? Where’s the gun? Why did they shoot the kid in the back? Why should young Black kids trust police? Why don’t “good cops” speak out against the actions of the “bad cops”?
Life is for Living,