My Brotha Died A Hashtag

My Brotha Died A Hashtag

Elijah Powell, Staff Writer/ Opinion Editor

(Picture from NBC News website.)


America seems to only recognize what they see on cameras. When there is no camera evidence, people deny that a police officer could ever be so heartless to a person of color. When we speak up we are ignored unless we have evidence. However, without any visual evidence, much of America will immediately believe that a person of color robbed a store, or raped a white woman. According to the NAACP’s website, one million of those currently incarcerated in this country are black, and even though five times as many white people use drugs, African Americans are sent to jail ten times the rate whites are sent to jail for drug offenses. In 2013 the total imprisonment rate for African American males for every 100,000 U. S. residents was 526,000 compared to a 454,100 white males. We are guilty until proven innocent in a country that prides itself on treating all of its citizens in the opposite way.


Unfortunately, what is only now being recorded and shown to the public has been going on for years. It is sad that it has taken this long for certain police officers to actually feel the need to live up to their police departments’ standards (See Title 3 :Definitions), but now that almost everybody is equipped with camera phones, they have a little bit more incentive. With that being said, a person’s character is truly exposed while no one is watching. Let that sink in.


I say all of this because there are some who believe that police brutality and harassment, such as following and frequent stopping, does not happen disproportionately to African Americans in this country. This is because not only are they not going through the experience of constantly being racially profiled, but they also do not know the facts.


An example of how we are targeted is New York’s infamous stop and frisk policy, which began in 2002. In every poll since then that racially breaks down who was stopped, black people held the top spot for the race that were stopped the most, and just last year, we made up 55% of people stopped. That’s 24,777 people of color who were stopped, and out of that effort to harass us, 38,051 of the 46,235 people from all races who were stopped and frisked were innocent.


Some may say that if we know we are innocent, an encounter with the police should only be a slight inconvenience for us. Unfortunately, most people of color will tell you that that “slight inconvenience” is an almost daily occurrence, and such statistics prove this. We’re basically living under the gun, and if we show any resistance or do anything that is mistaken as resistance, gun shots will ring in our ears and for some of us, it will be the last sound we hear.


This is interesting because if you look up the hashtag criming while white on Twitter, you will see stories of white people admitting to crazy things they did after which police officers let them off with a slap on the wrist or even less of a punishment. Basically this is a hashtag where white people sympathetic to the plight of blacks tell of their altercations with law enforcement, all to show that whites are generally treated better than blacks in those situations. While police brutality is not exclusive to black people alone, there are many conscientious white people out there who know the sad truth that we are definitely a target.


But the madness will end. My phone’s camera function is as easily accessible as speed dial, and I’m not the only one.


Corrupt police departments and those who side with them have taken notice. A bill was passed in Illinois in December of 2014 which discourages (to say the least) citizens from recording other people’s encounters with police. So if you record the police hoping to provide evidence of police misconduct or brutality, you can be charged with a felony. A similar bill was recently proposed in North Carolina.


Speaking of infringing on people’s rights, the good samaritan Ramsey Orta who filmed Eric Garner getting choked to death was arrested soon after the video went viral. They brought him up on gun charges to which he plead not guilty and remarked to authorities that it was a “frame-up”. I believe him. After all I’ve seen police do over the past two years, I really wouldn’t be surprised. Of course some of you may be ignorant to this, and that is exactly how corrupt police departments want you to remain.


The most recent event where this is proven true is the case of Walter Scott. The mainstream media picked up the story most likely because these police shootings are a hot subject, and contrary to the purpose of journalism, they simply wanted to continue selling what is popular for rating and hits. The media slandered Walter Scott. A video shot by ameatuer camera man showed the police officer, Micheal Slager, shooting Scott eight times in the back and then dropping a taser next to his dead body so as to plant evidence that Walter provoked him. With the video not yet released to the public, media outlets felt it necessary to bring up that he had been arrested ten times for failing to pay child support. They didn’t tell you the man was a marine veteran.

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I refuse to give that much compassion to a murderer. Walter Scott murdered no one, but was shot dead and slandered for it. That is, until the video surfaced and major news networks who had originally reported Micheall Slager’s version of the incident were forced to backtrack. This is yet another clear example of how black people are treated like less, even in death.


Some will say Walter Scott should not have run from the police officer, which is a form of resisting arrest. To that, I repeat what Walter’s family lawyer confirmed: “running away from an officer doesn’t result in a death penalty.” And it shouldn’t. Again, if you look at the” criming while white” hashtag I mentioned earlier you’ll see white people admitting still being treated nicely by police even after they acted belligerent towards them, but if you want documented facts, here you go.


There are many accounts of white men, armed and not, who were clearly committing crimes and resisted arrest and made it to trial alive. On April 21, 2014, a man name Derrick Daniel Moore robbed a New Orleans home at gunpoint, shot at a wall in the home, and rampaged down the street, threatening people with his gun and firing at a man and his son in their pick-up truck, luckily failing to kill or injure them. After being chased down by alerted police, he was told to drop his weapon and responded, “No you drop your (expletive) gun!” He tried to flee again but was eventually captured, without one shot fired at him. Not enough proof? I’ll give you another one. Last year white protesters, many of which were armed, staged a standoff with law enforcement over the seizure of Cliven Bundy’s cattle. Cliven Bundy had been grazing cattle on land that he hadn’t paid grazing fees for since 1993. In April of 2014, many protesters in support of Bundy aimed rifles at police.


(Image from )


By April 12th, the BLM decided to back off and the day was won by the protesters. No shots fired, no citizen injuries, no tear gas. The same cannot be said about Ferguson protesters. This is funny because according to the Washington Times, Bundy is still grazing his cattle on unpaid land. So think to yourself: If those American citizens, after all the strife they cause law enforcement, are still alive today to tell their stories, why can’t people who look like Walter Scott be afforded the same privilege? Do people of color not deserve it? Do our lives not matter? Like all other races, we’re human beings. Unfortunately there are many police officers who think otherwise.


Some say that many officers who get into situations are young and inexperienced, causing them to react in extreme ways when faced with uncertainty on the job. While for some cases this may be true, I do not see this as an excuse, being that the officer who shot Eric Harris while he reached into his car for his wallet was a reserve officer who was 73 years old, and fear is something police need to be trained to handle better. The training should definitely evaluate the psychological effect certain situations have on officers being tested. If you’re first reaction is to pull out your firearm, you don’t deserve to be a police officer.


Many police officers become known as heroes when they risk their lives doing the right thing. They appreciate such compliments, and rightfully so. If you put yourself in harm’s way in order to properly execute your job, you deserve it. However, the daily risk of getting into life threatening situations is why police are held to such a high regard. So fear should never be an excuse. We all know police officers have families, and they deserve to go home to them every night just like anyone else. But unlike everyone else, they signed up for a job that does not protect that luxury. No fireman or woman signs up for the job and then uses their fear of fires as an excuse for not executing their job properly. It is a heavy price to pay, but those who pay it make great police officers who contribute to society in a positive way.


You may say who am I to say such things about police in the first place? The answer is I am an American citizen at the age of eighteen, and a taxpayer. My money, and the money of many victims of police brutality, is what pays officers’ salaries. Law enforcement is a public service, and I and any other American have the absolute right to speak up when malice is sensed. Any police officer who has a problem with that might as well take off his or her badge, because if they do they are not up to the challenge.


The only good, if any, that came from this was that in Walter Scott’s case, his murderer was actually charged with murder. This is a step in the right direction. The next step in the healing process, I would say, is also to investigate officers who stay silent about seeing their fellow officers engage in brutal acts. This, along with people continuing to exercise the power of their mobile phones will expose the bad apples in the barrel.


Lastly, I do not hate police officers. I say this because I know someone will read this and think I have a sick vendetta. On the contrary, I’ve met many good police officers. My mother’s childhood friend is a police officer who married a fellow NYPD member. That being said, in my discussions with them they also acknowledge the darker side to the profession. Police brutality is a national issue that cannot be ignored. I just hope the perpetrators rectify this before another brotha dies a hashtag.


#Walter Scott