In America, police brutality is all too common an occurrence, as it has been for quite some time. And with black people primarily being racially profiled, shot while unarmed, and in even more extreme cases, murdered as a result of police brutality, it would seem as if it's a crime just to exist while black in this country we call home. But even still, there are many people who are blind to the issue, and are willing to defend police brutality acts, proposing that there are options that the victims could have chosen instead as to prevent their harm.
Enter Charles Kinsey, 47, a behavior therapist in the Miami area. This past Monday, while Kinsey was attempting to help one of his autistic patients and prevent the officers from shooting, he was shot in the leg. Prior to this, Kinsey can be shown on video trying to get his patient to listen to him, and also talking with the officer, all while his hands are outstretched in the air and he lies on his back. After the officers withdrew their weapons, Kinsey explained that it was not necessary, as his patient only had a toy truck and not a deadly weapon. Ensuing the fired shots, the officers handcuffed Kinsey, checked him for weapons, and left him on the ground bleeding and without medical help for 20 minutes. When the officer was asked why he shot Kinsey, he replied that he didn't know.
"As long as I've got my hands up, they're not gonna shoot me, that's what I'm thinking. Wow, was I wrong."
Florida is no stranger to police brutality or racial profiling. George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin being justified under the Stand Your Ground law, as well as the brutal beating of Refus Holloway shows that the Sunshine State is far from being progressive when it comes to the attacks of unarmed black people. But America as a whole doesn't differ much from Florida. In fact, black people have been and are being regularly targeted by police for petty crimes or for no particular reason at all. This is essentially what sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, which fights against police brutality and the unfair treatment of black people. Like the name suggests, the movement serves to make the exclamation that our lives matter too, just as much as anyone else's in this country. But for whatever reason, many people take up an issue with the BLM movement. Many opposing arguments include the denial of police brutality against black people, using black on black crime to steer the conversation into a different direction, racist rhetoric, and respectability politics.
After the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Catstile in early July 2016, former NBA player Charles Barkley sparked controversy by applying respectability politics to the incidents. "Some black people are crooks," Barkley said on The Dan Le Batard Show. "I think those cops clearly overreacted, but there's no doubt in my mind that if I'm fighting with a guy and I hear somebody scream "Gun!" and I got a gun, I'm going to shoot the guy. And like I said, the cops probably did overreact in both situations, but we got to look at the big picture. Let's work with the cops, because we need the cops, Dan."
Around this same time, black country music singer Coffey Anderson made a YouTube video titled, "What To Do When You Get Pulled Over". The video is basically a "PSA" to help people during traffic stops do all they can do as to avoid having an officer pull out a firearm or using excessive force.
But this dances around the problem, it does not solve it. The truth is that respectability politics cannot save you. And neither can dressing in an Armani suit, saying "Yes sir", or even complying with your hand in the air as a sign of deference. In the Castile case, many people, including Barkley, suggested that he shouldn't have reached for his wallet at all, and that the responsibility was on him to act amenably. In Post-Jim Crow America, we shouldn't have to tell a race of people that they have to act and be a certain way as to avoid being harmed. Because the problem doesn't lie with us, but in the laps of the police. Many law enforcement officers are too quick to pull out their weapon and use excessive force, as opposed to de-escalating a situation or solving a problem without the use of a gun. Whether the problem is that these certain officers are too afraid when they have no need to be, or that they are blatantly racist against people of color, they should not be on a force where they are supposed to serve and protect all citizens. Those in charge choosing to give officers involved in police brutality acts paid leave instead of firing them for behaving impulsively and unjustly is another problem that taints law enforcement in the US. We as black people should not have to do a thing to avoid being shot, beaten or murdered by police while unarmed. Charles Kinsey confirms that you simply cannot 100% avoid being a victim of police brutality when you are black in America, no matter how much you desperately try not to rock the boat.