Here We Go Again: Black Life Doesn’t Matter
The Naked Truth
Published in the Capital City Hues newspaper – September 24, 2017
Once again, the St. Louis metro region has erupted into righteous outage with the acquittal of Jason Stockley. Stockley is a disgraced former St. Louis cop who killed an unarmed Black man in 2011. It’s been three years since the Ferguson Rebellion after the shooting of yet another unarmed Black man. That was Michael Brown, this time it was Anthony Lamar Smith. The haunting question is what we have learned about justice and injustice since 2014.
I won’t spend time going into all the details about this case. Just trust me when I say that of any officer-involved shooting, this was the case that should’ve resulted in a conviction of some degree. If not first-degree murder, then second degree or manslaughter. But nothing!
Here are a few of the details that have outraged many justice-seeking folks: Stockley came to the scene with an AK-47 in violation of department rules that prohibits unauthorized personal weapons. During the police chase, Stockley is heard on the police radio announcing that he’s “killing this motherf***er.” Forty-five seconds later, Stockley delivers the kill shot. Stockley attempts to shield an interior police cam showing him rummaging in his police duffel bag. A gun suddenly appears on the front seat of Smith’s car; test results only confirmed Stockley’s DNA on the gun.
The above is not hearsay, it was all exposed during the Stockley trial last month. Cell and police cam videos along with the police radio transmission were released weeks before the trial—a trial I forced myself to sit through. My expectations for justice were low especially when Stockley waived his right to a jury trial, choosing to comfortably but his fate in the hands of a supportive white, male judge. Stockley’s partner refused to testify even when offered immunity. The formidable Blue Wall of Silence prevailed.
The decision of Judge Timothy Wilson took me to the quote of historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., a quote that I was compelled to include in my book, Ferguson is America. Bennett speaks of the road not taken and the consequences of that road. Well, Brother Bennett, here we are again at that fork in the road.
Warned Bennett, “A nation is a choice. It chooses itself at fateful forks in the road by turning left or right, by giving up something or taking something –and in the giving up and the taking, in the deciding and not deciding, the nation becomes.”
And what have we become?
A nation divided—not just in two, but in many pieces. This is a nation that values property and money over people and human rights. This is a nation that is willing to spend billions of dollars both at home and abroad to maintain financial dominance and to ensure that white supremacy prevails at all costs. This is a nation that has, and will continue to use racism and the other isms at its disposal to keep us fighting with one another as “the other” when clearly, we have more in common than not. This gives our common enemy a pass. This is a nation that is unapologetic in its use of political, judicial and economic institutions to mightily oppress and when necessary, use its military power against its own citizens.
Some people in St. Louis are praying for cold weather to come quick. A few are reveling in wanton destruction of property. Many of us have stepped up our strategic efforts to hold the whole system accountability. Judge Wilson is a symptom of a diseased system; he’s just doing his job. White people in our region has stepped up quantitively to show their indignation but we all must be willing to disrupt the system in ways that illuminate that there can be no business as usual if blatant injustices continue. We are fighting for a society where all its peoples are free and able to fully participate in a democracy.
Judge Wilson sent us an explicit message with his verdict of not guilty. Our response is that we aren’t playing this game anymore.