Character Part 1

Part 1 of Two

Young black men tell me that white policemen harass them. I believe them. But the highly controversial instances referenced below are not examples of harassment.

Tamir Rice

In a Cleveland park, a boy (Tamir Rice) with a toy gun was fatally shot by a policeman. Details of the incident vary. What is certain is that the police were called by a man in the park who said that someone, “probably a juvenile,” was brandishing a gun, “probably fake, and he was frightening random people by pointing it at them.” It was later revealed that the caller’s supposition that the gun was fake was not relayed to the police who were dispatched to the scene. Also, there was no orange tag on the gun to signify that the ‘semi-automatic pistol’ was not real.

Depending on which online reports I read, Tamir was shot “1.5” or “2.0” or “10” seconds after the police arrived on the scene and ordered him to put his hands over (or on) his head. Tamir was at an age when he was part boy, part man. Perhaps he meant to play with the police when he reached for his remarkably realistic toy gun by pretending to shoot them. Perhaps he merely intended to show the gun to them. In any case, Tamir was shot the instant he touched his toy gun.

Tamir couldn’t have known that touching his gun would trigger an immediate and automatic response from the officer. Conversely, the policeman couldn’t have known whether or not Tamir was a random killer. The ingredients for an all too familiar tragedy were in place.

Tamir was fatally shot, but not because he was black.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin was walking through a neighborhood that had experienced multiple robberies. Fred Zimmerman, a community watch, followed him despite a dispatcher’s advice for him not to do so. There was an altercation between the two men. One of them was heard to scream, “Help!…Help!” Given the vocal distortion of a scream, it was not known which of the two cried for help. It is very unlikely that Trayvon would scream for help during a physical encounter. Fred was armed, but Trayvon was much younger. My considered supposition is that Fred shot Trayvon in self-defense.

Much has been said about “unarmed” men being shot by policemen. That fact is irrelevant and its implications disingenuous when all aspects of a confrontation are considered (see also: Michael Brown, below). Fred’s injuries strongly suggest that Trayvon began to beat him. Whatever happened, investigation proved that Fred is unequivocally not a racist. For surface details, you may be interested in reading my article titled, Justice, Prejudice, and Testosterone, dated April 9, 2012.

Trayvon was fatally shot, but not because he was black.

Michael Brown

Michael Brown was ordered to stop walking in the middle of the street. That is not harassment. But Michael would not comply with the policeman’s command. The confrontation rapidly accelerated, intensified, and included physical violence. Michael, unarmed but an extraordinarily powerful young man, charged the officer with the intent to kill. The officer was no match for Michael. He shot Michael in self-defense. For surface details, you may be interested in reading my article titled, Predictable Pattern, dated September 8, 2014.

Michael was fatally shot, but not because he was black.

Eric Garner

Eric Garner had heart disease, severe asthma, high blood pressure, and was dangerously overweight (350 pounds). Police officers attempted to arrest him for

illegally selling loose cigarettes. That is not harassment. To his pre-existing ailments, he added enormous stress on his heart when he resisted arrest. Perhaps their restraining tactics were excessive, but the controversial chokehold or headlock did not in and of itself cut air from Eric’s lungs (that’s the very reason he was able to say, “I can’t breathe.”) The officers could not have known about his cardiopulmonary ailments. His ill-health significantly contributed to his death. He died in an ambulance on his way to the hospital when he went into cardiac arrest.

Eric’s death was the result of those and other factors, but not because he was black.

(to be continued in Character, Part 2 of Two)

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