Something has been bothering me ever since I watched the video of the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin. How on earth did the officer who shot him not realize that he was being watched and taped? How could he not have thought to himself that he was about to become the next big news story? He was about to become the next internet hashtag.
I mean, seriously, we are still having national protests over the George Floyd killing. I’m sure this officer was aware of that. Surely the realization must have come to him as he followed Jacob Blake to his car and proceeded to shoot him seven times. Why did he not stop? Why did he not deescalate?
Then the other night I watched a TV interview with a Black police officer. He explained that American law enforcement is a toxic environment. He said that officers are not taught “protect and serve” but rather “us against them.” They see a black body and fear it. They immediately react to that fear. He emphasized that they have no situational awareness.
That’s it, I said to myself. No situational awareness. Their minds and therefore their bodies are focused only on that which they fear, the Black male body. They do not take in the whole situation and therefore do not make efforts to de-escalate that situation. In their minds, the situation does not exist; the only thing that exists for them at that moment is their fear of that Black body.
So, maybe the answer to all this police brutality is not reforming or defunding. Maybe the answer is not proper training, consent decrees or community policing. Maybe the answer is hiring people who have no such fear of the Black male body. Maybe it’s hiring people who have compassion, understanding and who truly want to protect and serve, not hunt down and kill. Maybe it’s hiring people who know what years of media distortion and sensationalism have done to the image of Blackness. Who understand how years of systemic, structural racism have shaped our nation and its response to the Black male body.
Because before the shooting or the murder of a Black male body happens, "The Assassination of the Black Male Image” has already taken place. I strongly suggest you read the book by that title, written by Earl Ofari Hutchison, before watching any more media coverage about what happens in Black communities.
Here’s a small sample: “The assassination of the Black male image has transformed Black men into universal bogeymen. The trick is to transform them back into universal human beings.”