Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
I’ve been wrestling with this story and its upsetting imagery all week. Everything about this encounter went horribly wrong, and the fact that everybody survived the encounter, while a relief, is not mitigating in the slightest.
This is the exact same police department whose officers, one year ago, accosted, assaulted, and oversaw an injection of ketamine into 23 year-old Black man Elijah McClain after answering a 911 call about an unarmed man who was “acting sketchy” and wearing a ski mask. McClain suffered a cardiac arrest and died in the hospital three days later. Everybody who knew McClain considered him the gentlest soul imaginable; a healer and musician who took time to calm abandoned animals at the shelter with his violin. The Aurora PD instead spun a tale of a raging, chemically enhanced superhuman who managed to knock all three of the officers’ body cameras off of their clothing while resisting arrest, and then reached for one of their guns. The original investigation by the Force Review Board said that the officers had behaved towards McClain in a manner “consistent with training.”
The Gilliam family, including the children, was handcuffed and detained at gunpoint as a result of several police officers failing to understand their own data or communicate thoroughly with one another to make sure their actions were justified. The stolen vehicle in question was a motorcycle with identical plates for another state instead of a blue SUV. A similar set of circumstances were present in the death of 26-year old Black woman Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky: the raid that killed her while she was asleep in her bed was executed after the suspect the officers were seeking had already been arrested elsewhere.
I’m aware that Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired upon and injured one of the officers. It remains under dispute if the officers failed to identify themselves, which would have meant Walker — who was legally licensed to carry — had every right to defend his home against intruders. I’m also aware that the police officers filed an incident report claiming there was no forced entry, and that the young woman lying dead in her bed had suffered no injuries, so excuse me if I don’t find these officers’ perspective on events to be at all credible.
It is exhausting to continue cataloguing these horror stories and to note the evident patterns and connections between them. It is more exhausting still to keep pointing out these patterns to people who abjectly refuse to see the long-standing paradigm of racist philosophies and policies baked into the culture of American policing, who fail to recognize that the problem is not bad apples, but bad orchards. It is exhausting on a level I can only begin to imagine for those Americans who are living in this targeted skin, day to day: preparing for if, waiting for when, hoping for never.