The comedian Bill Maher once said “If you give every black person in America a video camera you could do a weekly show on police brutality.” It could also be said that if you did the same with all people of color and many poor whites, you could do a daily show that would rival “Cops.” These days most of us have cameras in our pockets and the result is, like Maher predicted, enough internet videos of police brutality to fill up Tosh.0. Now something that happened all the time in our communities is out on display for the public to see. 20 years after the video of Rodney King getting pummeled by LAPD, it seems when the time is right and all the pieces are in place, a mass of people stand up and take notice of rampant police terrorism and corruption. We saw it in 2009 when video footage could not be refuted that unarmed Oscar Grant was shot in the back as he lay face down on a BART platform. Recently the killings of Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham have raised a lot of much due awareness about racism, stereotypes, and police abuse (or in Trayvon’s case, wanna-be police).
On February 2nd 18 year-old Ramarley Graham was chased by NYPD narcotics agents into his home where he may have been trying to flush a small amount of marijuana down the toilet. Ramarley was shot once in the chest and died shortly after in the hospital. The shooting brought some much needed attention to the NYPD’s “Stop & Frisk” policy which sends police out to low-income neighborhoods of color to treat every young man like a potential criminal or gang member. This causes increased tensions on the street and makes these types of deadly incidents more common. With the current atmosphere stop & frisk created combined with the facts that Ramarley was not a hardened criminal and seemed to only be in possession of a small amount of marijuana, along with the video that showed him calmly walking into his home well before cops came kicking the door down (without any sort of warrant) all added up to people actually giving a shit that a young black man was killed by the police. His family vowed to protest every week until some type of Justice was served. Hundreds of supporters have joined in protests and demonstrations throughout the month, then another horrific crime was commit bring even more awareness to the issues.
In Florida, on February 26th17-year old Trayvon Martin was walking back from the store to his family’s house when he was followed by the local neighborhood-watch captain George Zimmerman, who thought Trayvon looked suspicious and like he wasn’t from the neighborhood. What exactly happened next is still somewhat unknown, but what is known is that the unarmed Trayvon was shot and killed in the street by Zimmerman’s gun. As in the case with 99% of police brutality and shootings, George Zimmerman was not charged with any crime and was released by Sanford police. The police had the excuse of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” that says it is not a crime to use deadly force if you feel threatened. Again, the right circumstances (Trayvon’s age, clean record and being unarmed, police telling Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon, police making no arrest) combined to cause a ripple effect throughout the community and people all over the country started to take notice. Dwayne Wade and other members of the
Miami Heat began talking about it on Twitter and releasing pictures of themselves in ‘hoodies,’ the article of clothing Trayvon was wearing that supposedly made George Zimmerman suspicious of him. Even Obama mentioned it in a press conference stating “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Soon hundreds of rallies were taking place all over the country where young people would take to the streets wearing hoodies and holding signs that say “Do I Look Suspicious?” Unfortunately the point was missed by many like Geraldo Rivera who answered “yes” you do look suspicious and you look like a thug and parents shouldn’t let their kids go out wearing a hoodie. Obviously there are many in this country who need the conversation to stay on the hoodies, because if it didn’t, we might have to start talking about racism, gun violence, abuse of power, and the over-all white-supremacist power structure in Amerikkka.
R.I.P. Trayvon, Ramarley, the 8 people killed by Border Patrol in the last 2 years, Oscar Grant, James Rivera, Ernest Duenez, Joey Pinasco, Francisco Moran, Vang Thoa, Rita Elias, and countless others!