The hugs didn’t stop last tonight as I made my way through the Village HeartBEAT Hearts of Champions Gala. I was doing my usual thing, taking pictures and updating VHB’s Facebook and Twitter pages. One-by-one men and women told me how glad they were that I was alive, that I survived being held at gunpoint by an overzealous cop.
I thanked them all. All of the interactions, the hugs and the prayers offered to me were tinged with sadness and frustration. We all know my encounter could have been tragic.
It was last September for Terence Crutcher. He was the unarmed Black man gunned down by Tulsa Police officer Betty Jo Shelby. To make the tragedy even worse, on Wednesday, a jury found Shelby not guilty of murdering Crutcher.
His hands were up, but Shelby killed him anyway. She claimed he was a threat. It was caught on tape.
It didn’t matter. The jury found a reason to let her go. There’s always some reason to let cops go unpunished when they kill us or abuse their power. It’s as if our black skin has become a lethal weapon. Our blackness is reason enough for some police officers to draw their weapons.
After the Shelby acquittal, one of my Facebook friends asked if we’ve become numb to cops killing us.
It’s not the we’re numb, I replied on his page. We just feel helpless. Even if we aren’t doing anything wrong, our mere presence is reason enough for them to be suspicious. The people who are supposed to protect us see us as a threat. All too often the white robes that terrorized black people in our history books are now blue uniforms. In ways if feels like we are repeating that history because the law is still on their side.
I survived my heart-stopping encounter with a gun-wielding cop, but it’s not enough for me to go home and put this behind me. Officer Matthew Janis’ actions is a reminder of how easy it is for some cops to draw first and ask later.
I can’t put this behind me until I know that my friends, newfound allies and I have done all we can to help prevent the next Terence Crutcher.