Another one. Another victim to police brutality in the United States and again it was a black man, a man that was statistically much more likely to be the target of disproportionate excessive force unnecessary to maintain public order.
Many things in the case of Betty Jo Shelby are horribly familiar: A police officer with a history of use of excessive force, a black male without a weapon and following the trial an absolute lack of accountability1.
When I first heard about this tragedy I was, obviously, devastated. But then, I felt worse, after I read an article describing the justification for the police officer’s lethal conduct – she was scared.
Scared, that the weaponless big scary black man would harm her, with his hands in the air while she had her loaded gun in hand. Yeah, of course…
Funnily enough, victimhood is being put regularly to people who are actually struggling, you know, like people who are one major life event away from losing their homes or are way more likely to be attacked, belittled, devalued or fired simply because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or colour of their skin.
Yet the powerful can and do use it when and if it fits their agendas. We cannot describe calling out opressive treatment as victim culture, for victim culture is when one uses the role of the victim purposefully in order to gain some advantage of some sort. Brooke Turner’s father resorted to this strategy when he lamented his sons lack of appetite for steak after he violently raped an unconscious girl behind a dumpster. White supremacists and right-wing extremists resort to it when they justify their use of violence and brutality with the perceived threat to their culture and country. And also, not only Ms. Shelby but also the justice system is guilty of falling into this trap when she hid behind the stereotype of the powerless white woman although she held the gun in hand and represented law and order, which she so horribly failed to uphold.
Admittedly, a charge for murder could be questionable, but a ‘slap on the wrist’ is just not acceptable, even less considering the context of people labelling Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organisation as well as the reoccurring of unlawful killings like this. And this doesn’t even touch upon the pain and terror that the families of these victims have to go through because they will never see justice being served, solely because the perpetrator was a policeman or woman. This is not an easy topic, but surely if whole communities start to question not only the ability to keep them safe of the police force, but their very motivation to do so this is not a sustainable situation.
And we know, that the police relies on people from communities to supply them with information in order to do their job, because they simply cannot be everywhere all the time. Then, this is not even just an issue in terms of lost lives (as if this wasn’t enough!) but as well in terms of our communal cohesion, general security and ability to perform as a society.
Just now, we learned that leading up to one of the latest tragedies of London the Muslim community warned to police about the perpetrator, which just shows how important it is to integrate rather than divide2.
When the weakest in our society loose, we all do. This is because in this way we start to create a culture, in which it is acceptable not to cherish and celebrate what American patriots would call the 3 basic human rights set out by the American constitution: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These 3 things, however you’d like to phrase them, are what binds us together. (The irony that America, after establishing these great rights, then went on to enslave a lot of people and basically not bother about their life, liberty or happiness is not to be missed).
When we contribute to the stripping away of basic rights to our neighbours, the very people that might eat across from us in our favourite restaurant, play with their kids next to ours in the local park and go to the same open-mic night on a Wednesday, guess who is going to be next?
As I view it, the all-present theme in modern politics is the anger and frustration of disenfranchised people not seeing possibilities for themselves, their neighbourhoods and their children. This needs to be our concern, as we cannot allow any person within our society to have lesser rights or possibilities. However, I cannot fathom how buying into the illusion of isolationism and cultural division will help us to improvr.
To paraphrase the great Louis C.K.; The only time you should look into your neighbours bowl is to give them more if they don’t have enough.
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