Yellow police tape, red white and blue lights flashing, officers of the law standing around and a Black male body laid face down has been the highlight of various media outlets, over the course of this past week. It is a scene that African-Americans around the United States, have become all too familiar with. The horrendous ordeal has left many members from the Black community wondering,“Will Justice Finally be Served?”
Last Tuesday, North Charleston police officer Michael Slager was arrested in connection with the murder and execution of 50-year-old Walter Scott. This arrest came only after the release of a video by the New York Times, which depicts an unarmed Scott fleeing from the officer, after what should have been an ordinary traffic stop. The incident involved Scott, a Black man breaking free from Slager. Seconds later, Officer Slager commences to firing eight rounds, which left Scott’s lifeless body laying in the mother’s carpet of the Earth. Scott was described as having been well known. He served the United States of America for two years in the Coast Guard and was the father of four children.
In a statement issued to the press, Mayor Keith Sumney of North Charleston said, “I can tell you that as the result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer, he will be charged with murder.” Sumney’s thoughts are synonymous with Senator Tim Scott, who is also African-American. Senator Scott of South Carolina said “the senseless shooting and taking of Walter Scott’s life was absolutely unnecessary and avoidable.” He further expressed, “My heart aches for the family and our North Charleston community. I will be watching this case closely.”
Despite the promises, investigations and statements issued by the Justice Department and the South Carolina Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; members of the African-American community will be like Senator Scott, “watching this case closely.” As the open season of fire upon Black males within the community continues, many would like to remain hopeful that justice will be done. However, the reality is that too many instances involving officers shooting unarmed Black males and not being indicted by grand juries or never receiving no real justice has left the Black community faithless in the judicial system.
When asked Bishop BL Moran, President of the Jena Branch of the NAACP offered the following statement. “To view an unarmed Black male fleeing from authorities in 2015, is just as equal as a man running from a ferocious dog; in whom he knows means him no good. Slager should not have used any force in pursuing Scott, with the exception of appropriate measures outlined for apprehension. Even if there was a struggle, of which the dash cam showed that there was not; it would have been wise for the Slager to have used his training from the academy to subdue the suspect. But to fire multiple shots proves a couple things to me: previous officers actions’ on Black males are accepted and the execution of gun fire resulting in murder is merely one of the White man’s ways of making the Black male race extinct.”
Bishop Moran went to Washington to speak before Congress on behalf of the Jean Six. A case that sparked attention nationwide when, Mychal Bell and five other teens who faced overly aggressive prosecution and extended incarceration for fighting with a White classmate in their community. A series of racial incidents preceded the uproar within the small Louisiana town, including the hanging of nooses in a tree at the local high school.
“These types of situations happen too many times. Jordan Baker, Trayvon Martin, Robbie Tolan and Anthony James Johnson… It’s very unfortunate that Walter Scott, another Black man and another mother with a broken heart has been highlighted and sacrificed to shed light on the cancers of law enforcement…” These were the words rendered by Kathy Ballard Blueford-Daniels. Daniels is a long-time Houston community activist and founder of BLAC MoM, which is an acronym for Black, Latino, Asian, Caucasian – Mourners of Murder. She was inspired to establish the group due to the tragic murder of her 20-year-old son in 2006, Patrick Murphy.
Daniels makes reference to other White officer involved fatal shootings in conjunction with the loss of Black life. Walter Scott’s murder is merely one more link in a string of controversial deaths that have led to an outpour of protests and instances of racial profiling within Black communities across the country. The correlation between the associations with cases of other Black males such as: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner; can not help but to be sewed together with a case such as this one. Primarily because, the instances are all yoked together by several common threads: a White officer, use of deadly force by a protected police shield, a Black male and ultimately murder.
Such was the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri who was shot by Officer Darren Wilson, a White officer in 2014. Wilson faced charges in the killing of an unarmed Michael Brown. Brown is allegedly said to have stolen cigarillos from a local store, which is what sparked the confrontation between he and Wilson. After being notified by dispatch, Wilson approached Brown and another friend, Dorian Johnson in the middle of the street. An altercation between Brown and Wilson emerged. Ultimately, the situation resulted in Wilson firing a total of twelve bullets at Brown, causing his untimely demise. On November 24, 2014, it was announced that a St. Louis County grand jury had decided not to indict Officer Wilson. He was also, later cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice and said to have acted in self-defense.
Such was the case of 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida who was killed by George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch man, who attempted to act as an officer. Martin had been visiting with his father when he left to purchase candy and juice from a convenience store. On his way back to his father, Zimmerman, spotted him and called the Sanford Police to report him. He made claims that Martin looked suspicious, due to a string of robberies that had been occurring. Although Zimmerman was told by authorities not to do anything, he incited an altercation which led to the teenager being shot in his chest and killed.
As a defense, Zimmerman scapegoated the “Stand Your Ground” law which forbid law-enforcement officials from arresting or charging him. Nevertheless, he was eventually charged and tried. But a jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and of manslaughter in July of 2013.
Such was the case of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York City who was killed by Officer Daniel Pantaleo as a result of a 15-second chokehold, on July 17, 2014. Garner was approached by New York Police Department officers on the suspicion of selling single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps. After Garner told the police that he was not selling cigarettes, the officers went to arrest him. That is when Officer Pantaleo put his arm around Garner’s neck and pulled him backwards and down on the ground. Garner screamed in between breaths that he couldn’t breathe; but his claims went unnoticed, causing his murder. Once again on, December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo.
Members of the African-American community remain outraged at the careless loss of life of Black males that has become a common and repetitive norm. After many instances that have existed to serve and show African-Americans that the law is above the law; African-Americans can only hope, pray and wonder, “Will Justice Finally be Served?”