International headlines have ceaseless blared about the terrible scourge engulfing America at the moment – brutality and murder of innocent black Americans at the hands of White police officers. Our US correspondent Leslie Gordon Goffe, joins the global voices asking: What is going on in Barack Obama’s post-racial America?
For many black Americans, the election of their first black president signalled an end to the bad, old racist days and a beginning of the good, new tolerant society. But alas, 6 years on, black people’s lives – especially the lives of young black men in America – are as little valued and are as likely to end at the barrel of a white policeman’s gun in Obama’s America as they were before him.
Michael Brown, at just 18 years old, died at the barrel of a white policeman’s gun in Ferguson, Missouri, on 9 August, igniting world-wide anger and protestations, more so in the US itself. Michael was shot 11 times – twice in the head and 9 times in the chest while he had his hands up to indicate he was unarmed.
On his way to his grandmother’s house, “Mike-Mike”, the name his family called him, was set upon by a white policeman who emptied his gun into the young man because he was jay-walking – that is, walking in the street instead of on the pavement.
Enraged, Ferguson’s residents took to the streets in protest at what they saw as a modern-day lynching by a police force paid to protect and serve them, but which more often brutalises and kills them.
For John Crawford, too, death came at the end of the barrel of a white policeman’s gun. On 5 August, four days before Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, the 22-year-old Crawford was shot and killed by two white policemen in a department store in Beavercreek, Ohio, while inspecting a toy pellet gun he was interested in buying.
The policemen, who were involved in a similar shooting four years before, claimed Crawford had threatened shoppers with the toy weapon and that they shot him only after he refused to drop the pellet gun, which they claimed they believed was a real gun.
“He looked as though he was going to go violently,” one of the policemen who killed John Crawford said in the local press. But a video recording revealed that Crawford was shot without warning and that he was talking on a cell phone to his family, who say they heard when he was gunned down by the police and when he took his last breath.
“He was a good son and a good father to his two children,” John Crawford’s father said of his dead son.
Like John Crawford and Michael Brown, Eric Garner was also killed by a white policeman. But Garner did not die at the end of the barrel of a gun. He died an even more primitive and brutal death.
The sickly, overweight, 43-year-old asthmatic, who also suffered from diabetes, died after being wrestled to the ground in a New York street by a gang of white policemen, one of whom locked his arm around Garner’s neck in a deadly choke-hold.
The choke-hold, which is banned by the NYPD, crushed Garner’s windpipe, stopped his breathing, and killed the husband and father of six.