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Monday, January 25, 2021

Continual loop of state-sanctioned murder of Black people

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If you’ve ever watched the movie “Groundhog Day,” you know the storyline is based on reliving the same day over and over. That’s often how I feel Black people live in this country, but it’s a tragedy — not a comedy. No matter how many times we try to change the narrative with police and Black people, the story remains the same. 

I like to think of myself as a pragmatic optimist. I call it as it is — not how I want it to be — but I also remain hopeful for improvement. This week I have my doubts, though. This is one of those times where I feel nothing will change for us, and I’m tired.

I recently opened the news app on my phone to read yet another story about a police-action killing of a Black man. This time it happened in Columbus, Ohio. This time 23-year-old Casey Goodson was shot as he entered his home by a 17-year veteran of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. His keys were in the door. His body fell into his kitchen. The Subway sandwich laid on the floor next to him. 

Goodson wasn’t the person the sheriff officer was looking for. Goodson doesn’t have a criminal background, wasn’t the target of any investigation, nor was he suspected of committing any crimes.  Goodson was legally licensed to carry a concealed weapon and he was armed at the time. I bring up the weapon because the sheriff officer who killed Goodson said he saw a man with a gun, went to investigate and words were exchanged before the shooting. No witnesses. No body camera footage.

It doesn’t matter if it’s legal, a Black man with a gun is often a suspect in America. Police in Beavercreek, Ohio, killed John Crawford III for carrying a BB gun in Walmart after Ronald Ritchie called 911 and reported Crawford pointed the gun at people. Ritchie later recanted that part of his statement, and he’s also stated he has no regrets or feels any responsibility for Crawford’s death.

Now, juxtapose these incidents with the way Kyle Rittenhouse has been treated. A 17-year-old white boy who was able to walk past police with a rifle after shooting three people, killing two of them. Rittenhouse and his supporters continue to call his actions self-defense. Rittenhouse, a minor, wasn’t legally allowed to carry the AR-15 he had in Wisconsin or his home state of Illinois. But that doesn’t matter to gun advocates who have justified the shooting and publicly supported him. Will these advocates support Goodson with the same vigor? Looking at the past, it’s highly unlikely. Where is the NRA when you need them? When it comes to a Black man exercising his Second Amendment right vs. the police, the NRA is silent. 

A few days before I read about Goodson, I watched a video of two white men physically assaulting a police officer, who also was white. Neither of the men were killed. I’m never surprised when I see this, but the latitude white people are given never ceases to amaze me. I think about how many Black people would still be alive if we were treated the same.

Of course, the incident will be “investigated” to determine if the shooting was justified. The way the policies are set up it’s likely the officer didn’t violate any. This is why the conversation has moved from “police reform” to “defund the police.” Reform has changed little. It’s time to make some drastic changes to policing in this country. It will require more than piecemeal change. It will require outside-the-box thinking to create a system of equity. It’s time to stop repeating this tragic loop of police killing African Americans for far less than what white people get away with.

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