These names represent a mere fraction of an ever-growing list of unarmed black men, women, and children who have been murdered by police officers. Mounting activist voices and growing protests have prompted President Obama to announce his proposal to equip our nation’s police officers with 50,000 body cameras. The plan was praised by Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill as, “Exactly the right move.” But after the non-indictment of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD Officer who killed Eric Garner on video, Obama’s plan leaves others asking, “Why even bother with cameras?”
The non-indictment of Eric Garner, while unsurprising, was particularly disheartening because in some ways it was the case that seemed most likely to bring justice. Garner’s death was caught on video, making it seemingly indisputable. The coroner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. Choke holds have been banned in the NYPD for 20 years. Even Bill O’Reilly begrudgingly admitted that perhaps Garner didn’t deserve to die.
But none of that matters. None of it will begin to matter until the system acknowledges that people of color are actually capable of being victimized. Or more simply: that they are human. It’s past time to acknowledge that this racist system isn’t broken. From police officers to judges and juries to for-profit prisons, the system is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do:
Albert Burneko wrote last night:
The murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Sam Shepherd, and countless thousands of others at the hands of American law enforcement are not aberrations, or betrayals, or departures. The acquittals of their killers are not mistakes. There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.
Body cameras for police officers will only help stem the tide of racialized police brutality when cops stop painting African-American men as superhuman threats (and juries stop buying into their story). When we stop erring in favor of the upward-end of the power differential and start listening to those who have been victimized. But most importantly, when law enforcement agencies, justice systems, and everyone in between simply starts recognizing that black lives matter.
Featured Image By Gerard Flynn