Hands up! “They still shot me any way.” These are the Obama years!


Hands up! “They still shot me any way.” These are the Obama years!

As this video surfaces showing black mental health worker Charles Kinsey – being shot  by a North Miami policeman while he lay on his back with his arms in the air next to an autistic man he was looking after – is the issue of trigger-happy policing and indiscriminate killings of black people under President Barack Obama defining his legacy? Can he do anything now  before he goes? Obama’s famous mantra may come to mind, but can he? Our US contributor Robert Cooper ponders.


This is not the way it was supposed to be. With the election of Barack Obama as the first Black President of the United States this country was supposedly “post racial” and racism was a thing of the past according to White America. Well nothing could have been further from the truth. Since Obama became president the racial climate in America has become the worst it’s been since the tumultuous 1960’s.  

White supremacist groups have increased significantly in the age of Obama, hate crimes have gone up (including an incident where a White man killed 9 Black church members after joining them at a prayer meeting). Some top TV news channels and conservative talk radio have filled the airwaves with hate speech, bigotry and racial hatred runs rampant throughout the internet, and the justice system continues to incarcerate Black men at an alarming rate.

However the biggest racial problem in the US since Obama took over has been the increase in the murder of Black men and women at the hands of the police. Since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, (MO) two years ago it seems like every time you catch your breath, the police have left another Black man or woman lying dead in the street, or dead in police custody. From Eric Garner to Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald to Freddie Gray the names keep adding up and the circumstances get even more ridiculous to believe. These deaths have spawned hashtags and protest movements such as #Handsupdon’tshoot, #Icantbreath, #Sayhername, and the most popular and effective #BlackLivesMatter. 

Even though these instances of police brutality have been dominating the news, the problems between the Black community and police has been going on for longer than anyone can remember. When you are Black in America it is just ingrained in you from an early age to have either a fear of or hatred for police officers.

It starts like this, one of your parents will sit you down and tell you how not to act in the presence of the police. They tell you to speak softly, don’t make any sudden movements, don’t talk back, don’t do anything that can be misconstrued as threatening. Your only goal is to make sure you are not murdered by those sworn to serve and protect you. 

However no matter how much you do everything you are supposed to do, cops aren’t expected to show you any respect. When you are Black or Brown they are prepared to be stop you for the most mundane reasons if they give you one at all. You may also be detained with little to no evidence of a crime being committed and worst of all they can shoot first and find an excuse for it later.  

The harassment that Black people are subjected to on a regular basis, is not the same for people on the opposite side of the colour spectrum.

In the White neighborhoods, the police are your friend. They are non-threatening in their approach, allow you to question them, let you off with a warning, rarely are suspicious of you, hell they will even help you get your cat from a tree if you ask.

When you look into history, you rarely find an occasion where excessive force or unnecessary death is used on White people. In the Black community, it’s a different story. History is littered with instances of police brutality.

In the 2000’s Patrick Dorismond, a Haitian immigrant, was shot in the chest by an undercover N.Y.P.D. officer after being asked about purchasing marijuana. Dorismond told the undercover officer he was not a drug dealer, a scuffle ensued, the cop shot Dorismond and claimed he “reached for his gun.” Dorismond’s name was dragged through the mud by then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his funeral was marred by clashes between protesters and police officers.

In the White neighborhoods, the police are your friend. They are non-threatening in their approach, allow you to question them, let you off with a warning, rarely are suspicious of you, hell they will even help you get your cat from a tree if you ask.

In the 1990’s  it was Rodney King getting beaten like a dog by the L.A.P.D. which was captured by video. The acquittal of four officers charged in the beating caused several days of riots in Los Angeles. Later on in the decade Amadou Diallo was shot 19 times out of the 41 bullets fired by four N.Y.P.D. officers. Diallo, an African immigrant was shot not for attacking the police, not for running from them, but he was shot for showing his wallet. Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was sodomized with a toilet plunger also by the hands of the very same N.Y.P.D. In Detroit Malice Green was beaten to death by two police officers. In response to police harassment hip-hop group N.W.A. created an anthem for Black America called “Fuck The Police.” Movie director Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” climaxed when the character named Radio Raheem was choked to death by the police.   

Comedian Richard Pryor famously joked about it in his comedy routines of the 1970’s when he asked “How do you accidentally shoot a nigger in the chest six times?” Police brutality was responsible for starting the Watts Riots in Los Angeles as well as the Detroit Riots in the 1960’s. The Black Panther Party was started in the 1960’s in Oakland, CA because of police brutality. In the south during the Civil Rights movement it was the police who attacked crowds with vicious dogs and powerful water hoses. 

In 1957 the beating of Hinton Johnson by the N.Y.P.D. brought Malcolm X into the national spotlight after a crowd of over 500 accompanied him to the police station to demand justice for the beaten man. Johnson was later awarded $70,000 by an all white jury which was the largest sum of money in a settlement against the N.Y.P.D. at that time.  

After all of these instances of police brutality Black people here in America have reached a boiling point. We are tired, and we are fed up. Tired of burying people who did not need to die. Tired of being told we are to blame for these killings, “well if you all would just…” Tired of a police force that does not value us as human beings.  

That’s why you see the marching, the shutting down of freeways, the hashtags, the recording of every interaction with the police and sharing it online, and the chants “Black Lives Matter!” We are trying to force the United States to deal with the racism that has been embedded here since the founding of this nation. It’s time for real dialogue no matter how uncomfortable it is and it’s time for legal changes that can’t help prevent these deaths as well as hold police accountable when they kill people for no credible reason. It is in this country’s best interest to find a solution to this issue – because as was seen in Dallas last week when a lone gunman shot down five police officers – there are a few Black people who are willing to do more than protest and hashtag to show their frustrations.

And this month, this video of Charles Kinsey pleading for his life has left many numb ( again) at the extent to which the US police will go in their use of murderous force against innocent Black people in America.

“When I went to the ground, I went to the ground with my hands up …and I am laying there just like this. Telling them again there is no need for firearms. He is autistic. He has a toy truck in his hand…I’m like this right here, and when he shot me, it was so surprising… I thought it was a mosquito bite, and when it hit me I had my hands in the air, and I’m thinking I just got shot! And I’m saying, Sir, why did you shoot me? and his words to me were, ‘I don’t know.’ ”

Charles Kinsey says in an interview with WSVN TV from his hospital bed.  












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