What would it mean for reports about Dante Servin, armed off-duty Chicago police officer, and Rekia Boyd, the unarmed 22-year-old citizen he shot to death in March 2012, “to be systemically aware” (see yesterday’s post)?
- Should we be focusing on a judicial system that let Servin off on a technicality this past Monday (4/20/15)?
- Should we be focusing on the invisibility of women in the discussion of police killings?
- Should we be talking about racism in state violence more generally?
- Or should be we consider the even more fundamental issue of fear?
Rekia Boyd’s story is not a straightforward example of the “unarmed suspect shot” scenario: Servin was not attempting to arrest Rekia Boyd. He appears to have been reacting to belief that her boyfriend was armed (he wasn’t), complicating any discussion of police response to Black women. Servin defends his actions by invoking police protocol, claiming: “Any police officer especially would have reacted in the exact same manner” (see video in ABC7Chicago story linked above). But he was off-duty, and he shot Rekia Boyd following a complaint about noise because he “feared for his life.” So, really, it comes down to fear….
The badges and guns belong to us
I symbolically embodied Rekia Boyd during a demonstration at the U.S. Capitol followed by a 4-1/2 hour die-in at the Department of Justice on Human Rights Day, December 8, 2014. I chose her name because she was female (like me) and from Chicago (like me). And while I had already left the city by the time I was 22, I feel some connection with a young woman out with friends on her own streets, maybe forgetting that it was late and time to keep the noise down or maybe just forgetting — as my friends and I did often enough — that there were other people around.
During those long, cold hours on the ground outside the Department of Justice, the following passage — one that has stuck in my brain since I first read it — returned to me again and again:
“…Them shootin’ me wasn’t no accident. You don’t take no scared white boys can’t tell the difference between one black man and another, give ’em guns, and let ’em run around the streets of Harlem and then say it was an accident when they one day shoot down an innocent man….”
— Tempest Landry, speaking post-death in Walter Mosley’s Tempest Tales. (NY: Washington Square Press, 2008.)
see also “Declarations of Independence…”
And, while some sectors, particularly Black media, have certainly addressed the topic many times for decades upon decades, mainstream media is still not asking the most fundamental question:
Why do we allow armed police to roam in areas where they fear the residents?
As Collette Flannigan, mother of Clinton Allen (age 25; killed by Dallas TX police), told “Voices of Grief and Struggle” last December:
“Those badges and guns belong to us.
Every time they kill they kill in our name.”
That’s a level of systemic awareness I rarely see and believe we must develop, soon.
We counted 19 on the evening of April 22. Tonight, we count….
Making the Omer Count
from On the Road to Knowing: A Journey Away from Oppression
A key element in the journey from liberation to revelation is understanding the workings of oppression, and our part in them. We cannot work effectively to end what we do not comprehend.
So this year, moving from Passover to Shavuot, I commit to learning more about how oppression works and how liberation is accomplished. I invite others to join me:
Let’s work together, as we count the Omer, to make this Omer count.
Thoughts and sources welcome.
Share this graphic to encourage others to participate.
Aware that we are on a journey toward knowing God — from liberation to revelation — I undertake to know more today than I did yesterday about the workings of oppression.
I bless and count [full Hebrew blessings in feminine and masculine address]:
Blessed are You, God, Ruler/Spirit of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.
Today is twenty days which are two weeks and six days in the Omer.
Hayom ‘esrim yom shehaym shnay shavuot veshishah yamim la-omer.
In the spirit of the Exodus, I pray for the release of all whose bodies and spirits remain captive, and pledge my own hands to help effect that liberation.