Outrage continues in America over the murder of two police officers in New York City. Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were slain by a hail of bullets in broad daylight while sitting in their vehicle. After the gunman opened fire on them, he fled to a subway station where he committed suicide.
I share that outrage.
The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was apparently no stranger to crime. His rap sheet includes robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. Earlier that day he was near Baltimore where he threatened suicide before shooting and seriously wounding former girlfriend Shaneka Thompson. Turns out he also reportedly had a history of mental illness.
The fact that the shooter was deranged does not excuse him from his responsibility for the despicable acts he committed in New York and Baltimore. I categorically reject any aspect of his reasoning (if you can call it that) for gunning down the officers, particularly his assertions on social media about wanting to claim revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner — unarmed men who were killed by police and have sparked months of civil unrest that continue to this day.
I am outraged that someone would so callously and willfully assault human beings who are mandated to protect and serve us.
I’m also outraged that many of the same people who share my anger regarding this tragedy have been silent when it comes to the deaths of African American men and boys. Young males who are systematically being beaten and killed through acts of police brutality.
(I personally believe a minority of police engage in unwarranted violence of this kind and it is them and their culture of prejudice to which I direct my anger. To them and the militarized law enforcement culture that supports them.)
Similarly, I am outraged by the people, who through their silence, affirm the disproportionate mass incarceration of young African-American males. I'm outraged that they believe it's right and just for young black men and boys to be systematically discriminated against in courtrooms that jail them at significantly higher rates than white males who commit similar crimes.
I'm outraged at white people who only see their point of view, a white-washed lens through which they are complicit continuing acts of injustice. I'm outraged they minimize, dismiss or even justify so many heinous acts of physical and emotional violence historically perpetrated against people of color – from slavery to Jim Crow to lynchings, to housing and job discrimination, to the continuing racial discrimination plaguing today’s education, employment, housing, judicial and yes, law enforcement institutions.
I'm outraged about white people who enthusiastically call out obvious, individual acts of racism but refuse to connect the dots when it comes to systematic racism.
I'm outraged that when I got pulled over by a County police deputy and tell him I was in the act of putting on my seatbelt when he saw me that he accuses me of lying. I'm outraged that when I told a mall retail store manager I've waited in the TV section of his store for 15 minutes to buy two televisions and was ignored by not one but two sales clerks, he told me that he wasn't there so he doesn't know what happened.
Am I so invisible, irrelevant and untrustworthy? Are all black males so? That is, unless we raise our voice, raise our hand or raise an issue of injustice, then we become a “problem.” I'm outraged that when we do these things we suddenly become quite visible, often to the point that we are perceived as aggressive or angry. Or dangerous.
I'm outraged that white people have the kind of privilege in our society that allows them to ignore or otherwise not engage on issues that negatively impact persons of color.
I’m also encouraged. Encouraged by the growing number of white people who are coming to the table, sitting down and listening. To these people I tip my hat. I know how hard it can be to listen to another person’s experiences for which it can often be impossible to relate.
As we think about the terrible tragedy of slain officers, also think about all those who also suffer and die unjustly. But not just the ones you can relate to.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.