WHITE PRIVILEGE, RACIAL PREFERENCES, AND POLICE VIOLENCE
©Wendell Griffen, 2015
Justice Is A Verb!
December 29, 2015
Yesterday (December 28, 2015), a grand jury in Cleveland, Ohio delivered the decision most observers expected concerning the death of Tamir Rice, a black 12 year old boy shot to death in a public park, while playing with a pellet gun, on November 22, 2014 by Officer Timothy Loehmann of the Cleveland, Ohio Police Department. The grand jury decided, at the recommendation of Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, Timothy J. McGinty, not to indict Loehmann for killing Tamir Rice.
Welcome to the latest pernicious example of white privilege and racial preferences in the United States, and the one that is defended most effectively and consistently. The killing of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, like that of Eric Garner in New York City, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Rekia Boyd and Laquan Robinson in Chicago, Illinois, Sandra Bland in Texas, and numerous other black and brown people at the hands of or in the custody of law enforcement personnel , proves why human rights activists argue that that black and brown lives do not appear to matter to people in law enforcement, on grand juries, to the judges and jurors who may decide the outcome of civil trials, and to the society that allows this perversion to continue under the pretense of “criminal justice.”
White privilege is vehemently denied and/or criticized by pundits, politicians, and other willfully ignorant people. But white children who play with pellet guns in public places are not gunned down within seconds after police see them (the way Tamir Rice was killed). I dare you to prove otherwise.
White people who traffic unlicensed cigarettes are not strangled to death by the police the way Eric Garner was choked to death on Staten Island last year. I dare you to prove otherwise.
White people with mental illness are not shot to death like rabid dogs the way Laquan Robinson and Quintonio LeGrier were killed by Chicago police. I dare you to prove otherwise.
White neighbors are not shot to death like collateral damage in wartime the way Bettie Jones, a neighbor of Quinonio LeGrier, was killed by Chicago police. White people in public are not randomly shot to death by the police the way Rekia Boyd was killed by a Chicago police officer. I dare you to prove otherwise.
White people and neighbors are protected (privileged) by whiteness from police homicide, not routinely victimized by homicidal police actors. Protection from police homicide is one reality of white privilege even when white people are armed and engage in threatening behavior.
Cliven Bundy, a white Nevada rancher, mounted and led an angry and armed assault on federal law enforcement officers who seized cattle Bundy illegally allowed to graze on federal land. Cliven Bundy has never been arrested or otherwise prosecuted for threatening the law enforcement officers. Bundy, a white man who threatened law enforcement officers and incited others to do so, is alive. Tamir Rice, a black youngster who played with a pellet gun. is dead.
Ask white privilege deniers and apologists for homicidal police actions against people of color about Eric Frien. Why don’t you recognize that name?
Eric Frien, a white man, is accused of first degree murder, attempted murder, terrorism, and other charges surrounding the death of one Pennsylvania State Trooper, the critical wounding of another state trooper, and other crimes. Eric Frien is a white murder suspect who eluded capture and was the subject of a manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officers before being captured, alive.
Eric Frien, a white murder suspect, is alive today. Cliven Bundy, a white man who mounted an armed assault on federal law enforcement officers, is alive today. Their families are not grieving their deaths. Their neighborhoods do not wonder who will be the next victim of homicidal police action. White men can threaten law enforcement officers and live.
Tamir Rice, Laquan Robinson, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, and Quintonio LeGrier are dead because they lacked the privilege—and racial preference—of whiteness. Non-whiteness is the unspoken, but indisputable, reality that accounts for, but does not justify, the different way they were encountered by people in law enforcement.
The deaths of Tamir Rice, Laquan Robinson, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Quintonio LeGrier, Freddie Gray, Monroe Isadore (a 107 year old black man shot to death by police in September 2013 as he lay in his bed in Pine Bluff, Arkansas), Eugene Ellison (a 67 year old black man shot to death in his apartment by police in December 2010 in Little Rock, Arkansas) make one thing abundantly clear. Police kill people of color with impunity.
Cliven Bundy and Eric Frien make something else clear. Police exercise restraint and resist the temptation to use lethal force against white people, even when white people are armed and dangerous. White privilege and preference for whiteness is one of our nation’s open damning secrets, despite what white pundits and other apologists for white privilege claim.
I ten times double dog dare anyone to prove otherwise.