Q: A POC friend posted about a scumbag murdering 9 people, police knowing he murdered 9 people, police apprehend scumbag, and do not feel their lives were threatened so scumbag lives because the scumbag had “the complexion for the protection.” I know police brutality is racially biased, but its too much across the board and in this particular case the police did it right and my POC friend was coming across as resentful that this white man didn’t end up dead like he would have been much more likely to have if he had been white. So I called my POC friend out, saying I don’t see how they would have been satisfied unless this white scumbag had been hurt or killed. My POC friend called my comments foolish and then referred me to this website. What did I do wrong?
A: Seeing another incident where a white person was treated drastically different than a person of color is very painful to watch. Not only did the terrorist live,
but he was not handcuffed on his way to the police car, given a bulletproof vest and come to find out later, taken to Burger King for some food. This is just another incident of white supremacy. White supremacy is a system that privileges whiteness over darker skin. Elizabeth Martínez defines it as, “White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.” The prison industrial complex, including the police, is a system based on white supremacy. New York Magazine reported:
Sixteen hours after killing nine people inside a Charleston, South Carolina, church, 21-year-old Dylann Roof was treated to a free meal from Burger King by the Shelby, North Carolina, police officers who arrested him. This is according to Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford, who told the Charlotte Observer that Roof complained of hunger before officers bought him the burger. Turns out he only had time for a single bag of chips while leading police on a manhunt.
I think that the response from a lot of people would have been different if he was not in a bullet proof vest, given a sandwich at the precinct
(not at burger king), and handcuffed on his way to the car. Its not that he needed to be killed or assaulted by police (though I’m sure many people’s pain do wish this upon him) but damn. Also, why did the police not feel that their lives were threatened? This man just killed 9 people! Cops have felt threatened recently by kids playing, girls in swimsuits, people walking, people shopping. So threatened they killed these people without hesitation. Of course all of those people were black. So, what this says is, black skin is threatening. In the past few months alone, many black people have been killed on sight for selling loose cigarettes, walking in the street, reaching for an inhaler, etc. To see someone who actually is a murderer treated with so much respect is just another slap in the face. The flaunting of white supremacy is appalling. As white people we need to acknowledge that our friends of color feel like a target is on their back wherever they go. It is clear right now that if you are black in the US you are not safe. You are not safe at wal-mart, in your neighborhood, at the pool, at the corner store, and now… to not feel safe at church, that is a very painful reality. Because we are white, we might experience different times where we feel less safe, because of our gender, because of our class, etc. but we do not experience this valid fear wherever we go. At the very least, what our friends need right now is for us to listen – for us to acknowledge examples of a white supremacist system.
*(update 6/25/15) News at the beginning of this incident was saying a variety of things. Apologies for spreading any miss information about some details. Of course, these details (that he was in fact handcuffed and given burger king, not taken to a burger king) do not take away from the different treatment that this terrorist was given. This is just proof that police do know how to arrest someone humanely. Dashboard cam footage of Dylann Roof’s arrest was released yesterday and it shows officers walking calmly, putting away their guns, cuffing him with his hands on the car, etc. This is of course very different posturing from the brutal physical takedowns that we have sadly become used to seeing happen to unarmed black people.