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Friday, November 16, 2018

Columns

Modern lynching takes the form of lawful police brutality


Fiona Legesse/ The Cougar

Another hashtag floods Twitter, signifying another African American death, which is followed by outrage, protests and various calls to action but no real change. Names continue to be painted onto shirts and posters while murderer cops continue getting slaps on the wrist with paid leave for taking yet another black life.

We have become desensitized to the face of oppression.

I’ll never forget the first name I saw transform into a hashtag because of his wrongful murder. I’ll never forget the dread that clenched its fist in my gut on August 9, 2014 as the body of Michael Brown was left on the street for four hours after he was gunned down by police, despite some witnesses saying he had his hands up. 

It was also the day I truly realized the law wasn’t created to protect people like me.

The Ferguson protests were the first protests I was old enough to be aware of. It felt like new chapters from history were playing out before my eyes. Social media became a primary outlet for activism, and we took to Twitter to share our thoughts and disgust with the blatant racism that controlled the police force. But while backlash on social media was immense, it did very little to hold Michael Brown’s murderer responsible.

Three months later, another hashtag protesting the shooting of Tamir Rice flooded my timeline. Another innocent black life, added to the cycle.

After watching the video of Eric Garner’s death, I couldn’t get his last words out of my head. I thought to myself, “Surely those two police officers, who harassed and aggressively shoved him into the concrete, will be punished. Surely, the fact that officer Daniel Pantaleo held Garner in a chokehold, never loosening his grip despite Garner’s desperate gasps for air, will serve as more than enough evidence to prosecute him.”

The dread in my gut returned when the grand jury decided not to indict him.

When Freddie Gray died in the back of a police wagon due to a mysterious spinal injury, the dread of finding out the officers involved faced almost no repercussions muffled into numbness.  

More hashtags, more protests, still no justice. By now, hearing about the slaughter of unarmed black lives was depressing but not surprising.

I slowly began to scroll through Twitter. Hashtags such as #Sandra Bland, #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile and so many more no longer fazed me as I quietly accepted the reality of how black lives still didn’t matter in America despite all the years of progress.

Watching people and their families fighting for justice but only a select few receiving it made me feel hopeless and voiceless. Hashtags helped raise awareness for these injustices, and protests showed unity, but there is only so much you can do if no one is listening.

Armed with only his cell phone, Stephon Clark was viciously shot to death by police on March 18 for alleged vandalism and was stopped in his grandmother’s backyard. After telling him to put his hands up, police shot 20 bullets at him. Eight of them pierced his body, most of them in his back. The two officers on the scene muted the audio on their body cameras as they discussed what had happened once they were joined by reinforcements.

Like the many black lives wrongfully taken by the police before him, Stephon Clark was executed for no reason other than the color of his skin.

His killing was so cold-blooded and malicious in itself, the decision to not charge Baton Rouge officers with the murder of Alton Sterling brought me to another realization. Despite all the efforts, pain, sacrifices and tribulations of black people before us, nothing had changed.

We were all bearing witness to modern lynching.

America continues to perpetuate the vicious cycle of hunting black citizens on American soil by turning its cheek while officers fulfill their hunger for power, encouraging malicious and bigoted murders and treating white supremacists and school shooters with care and caution.

Terrorists who continue to shoot in schools and other public spaces, killing all races and age groups from the elderly to toddlers, are escorted and taken away without facing any physical abuse by officers, yet a 12-year-old kid is seen as a threat to be shot multiple times.

A father of two, holding just a cell phone, is executed in his grandmother’s backyard.

The black community deserves so much more than this trauma, pain and fear.

It’s not fair that black boys aren’t given the same chance to grow up carefree, like children should.

It’s not fair that black parents have to give their children the race talk just so they can make it home alive.

Until America acknowledges that black oppression is a part of its DNA and makes the conscious decision to stop police brutality, the fight for equality will continue, no matter how long it takes. Until then, we will continue to scream that Black Lives Matter.

Assistant opinion editor Bethel Biru is a broadcast journalism senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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