From a NY Times report:
Mr. Stone ran outside and saw two police officers, both both white men, standing near Mr. Brown, who was lying on his stomach, his arms at his sides, blood seeping from his head. Another neighbor, a woman who identified herself as a nurse, was begging the officers to let her perform CPR.
They refused, Mr. Stone said, adding, “They didn’t even check to see if he was breathing.”
I have some disturbing feelings about this.
Ever since the Ferguson Police Chief decided to release video that alleges Mike Brown stole cigars from a store and then shove past the employee who tried to block his exit, I've been seeing people claim that this somehow exonerates the cop who gunned him down in the street while he was unarmed.
I couldn't wrap my head around how anyone could think, "well, he stole something, so he got what he deserved." Do people really believe that capital punishment without any due process is an appropriate response to a petty crime?
But, when I read this line, "They didn't even check to see if he was breathing," something deeply disturbing occurs to me.
It's related to a thought that I shared with a friend on FB, recently. In that exchange I was responding to a graphic explanation going around which attempts to enlighten males about why they don't see the sexual harassment that women endure. In one part of that explanation, the author is telling men that women are still silently seen as the property of men. So, if a man is with a woman, whether she be a family member, friend or acquaintance, she is less likely to be harassed out of deference to him. That is, they see her as his property and therefore under his umbrella of protection. Any woman not associated with a man is fair game.
I mentioned to my friend that the same thing could be said to White people about why they don't ever get a real visceral sense of how racism as a systematic oppression impacts Black people. When a White person is with a Black person, other White people are going to be respectful; not respect to the Black person, but out of respect to the White person, they will not harass their property.
That thought is getting stronger in my mind as I hear more and more details about what happened in Ferguson last Saturday.
"They didn't even check to see if he was breathing."
They didn't care. If you still see Black people as non-human - and I haven't heard so many references of "you animals" in decades, as I've heard on tapes coming out of Ferguson this week - then you're still holding them as so much property. Property is inanimate, so why would you even think about whether it is breathing?
This is how people make a stolen cigar equivalent to a stolen life. There is nothing more sacred in the capitalist world than property. And there is nothing less valuable than unclaimed, damaged property.
The other night, when I went to a solidarity vigil/rally here in Boston, I went with a friend. He is Black. As we were walking there I said, "I don't expect anything to happen, tonight. But, if it does, please get behind me." We talked about that for a minute. His first reaction was that he would feel like a coward. I get that. I respect that. In fact, if he held to the feeling that he couldn't feel good about himself with that arrangement, I would have honored his needs. In the end, though, he admitted that he is scared. He accepted my offer to lend him some of my privilege. I am far less likely, as a middle-aged white woman, to be in the sights of a gun.
I would rather that I be shot than him, too. For many reasons. But, one of those reasons is that White people need to start taking the hits. We've garnered all the benefits accrued to us at the expense of the oppression of others. We need to start paying the real price. I would not be able to live with myself and look my daughter in the eye, if I didn't take the shot.
One hopes it never comes to that. We can see, in Ferguson, that it does, though. Don't be fooled by "rubber bullets." Those are rubber-coated metal bullets. They still do great damage and can kill. If they're going to unleash those tanks, White people need to be standing in front of them. We have accepted all the privilege of a racist society that leads to our police using militarized weaponry against our sisters and brother with darker skin. We need to pay the blood price we've let others pay for so long.
We'll probably find out just how quickly we are dehumanized when we stand in deadly serious solidarity. Perhaps, we'll finally get a little taste of the terrorism that people of color live with via our (in)justice system. Perhaps, then, more and more of us will feel unbearably uncomfortable with our White privilege and start giving it away. Perhaps.
I don't know if Ferguson is finally a turning point. Until I see real accountability for Mike Brown's murder - and the murders of so many other of our brothers and sisters at the hands of law enforcement - I won't have hope. We need real systems of accountability for state-sponsored brutality. Systems where the police and their publicly funded support system (DA's, Mayors, etc) aren't investigating and exonerating themselves.
Until that happens, we need to at least open our eyes to how deeply embedded the institutionalized racism is. What the price non-White people have paying for our "American lifestyle" is.
They didn't see Mike Brown as an injured person in need of tending. "They didn't even check to see if he was breathing."
I wonder if they'll check to see if I'm breathing ....