November 25, 2014 § 10 Comments
This is Emmett Till, who was murdered when he was 14 years old. This is Emmett Till after he was abducted by a gang of men in rural Mississippi on the night of 28 August 1955. These men, headed by local grocer Roy Bryant, pistol-whipped Till, beat him, gouged out his eye, and then shot him. When Bryant, who was transporting Till’s body in his pick-up truck, was questioned as to what happened by an African American man, Bryant said that “this is what happens to smart niggers.” This picture sickens me. Till’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket for his funeral so the world could see what happened to her little boy.
Last night, as I listened to the prosecutor in Ferguson, MO, and, then watched President Obama’s response, and watched the outrage on Twitter in response to the Michael Brown decision, I thought of Emmett Till. Last night, I had the depressing thought that Emmett Till died for nothing. I teach American history, and Till’s murder is usually regarded as a key moment in the birth of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
Michael Brown is just one of many black men and boys to be killed in the United States by white men, oftentimes white police officers. I couldn’t help think last night of Trayvon Martin, and of Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy gunned down by a police officer for waving a toy gun at a playground. But, the kinds of events that led to the deaths of Rice, Brown, and Martin aren’t all that new. For example, Yusef Hawkins. Or Amadou Diallo. I could go on.
Till was killed because he flirted with a white woman. Martin was killed because a neighbourhood watch captain thought him suspicious. Rice was killed because he was playing with a fake gun. Hawkins was killed because he was black in a white neighbourhood. Diallo was killed because he looked like a suspect in violent rapes. Brown was killed, well, I’m not entirely sure why. Because in August, the police claimed that the officer who shot him didn’t know he was a suspect in a convenience store robbery, though last night, the DA said that that’s why Brown was stopped.
So the right has come to the conclusion that Brown was a criminal and got what he deserved. My Twitter timeline last night had the occasional tweet or re-tweet to this effect. And news coverage I’ve read this morning follows that up. I say whether or not Brown rolled a convenience store is immaterial to his murder. The officer fired twelve shots at Brown. Six of those hit him. Two of this hit him in the head. The issue here is that a white police officer thought it necessary to fire twelve shots at an unarmed man. Fox News in the summer wondered whether Brown was, in fact, unarmed, given his physical size.
Perhaps, like last time I posted on race, I will get trolled by the racists. This time, I will not post racist comments in response to this article (I control what comments get posted, and, until last time, I generally allowed free speech here), but I will take them, and create a new blog post of racist, idiotic comments. And should I receive threats in response to this post, I will report them to the authorities. Consider that your fair warning.