American history is full of stories of black people doing precisely what America says it wants of its citizens — being creative, enterprising and industrious, being self-respecting and self-sufficient — only to have white people destroy what they’ve built, impede their progress and erase their wealth. And those are not far-off stories: Those are also the stories of the living.
Jordan Edwards spent his last moments in a car driven by his 16-year-old brother in a Dallas suburb. The teens in the car — Jordan, his two brothers and two friends — had no weapons, and they were not drunk. None of them has been charged with any crime.
At first, Balch Springs Police Department Chief Jonathan Haber claimed that one of his officers, later identified as Roy Oliver, fired at the teens’ car because it was backing down the street in an “aggressive manner” toward officers called to break up a teen party.
Hours later, the police chief walked that story back, saying body camera footage showed the car driving away when the officer raised his rifle and began shooting.
“After reviewing the video,” Haber said, “I don’t believe that (the shooting) met our core values.”
The Dallas County medical examiner has ruled Jordan’s death a homicide. Cause of death: gunshot wound to the head. The police officer has been fired. We await further news about what happens next.
Saturday, May 6 update
A police officer in a Dallas suburb was charged with murder on Friday, six days after he fired his rifle into a car full of teenagers leaving a party, killing a black 15-year-old in the front passenger seat.
In the summer of 1949, a 17-year-old white girl named Norma Padgett accused four black men of kidnapping her from a dark road in central Florida and then, in the back seat of their car, taking turns raping her.
Within days of Padgett's accusations, three black men from the city of Groveland were in jail and a fourth, Ernest Thomas, was dead, shot and killed by an angry mob — led by [Sheriff] McCall — who had chased him 200 miles into the Panhandle. In Groveland, black-owned homes were shot up and burned, sparking chaos so intense the governor eventually sent in the National Guard.
Based on little evidence, a jury quickly convicted the living three.
Charles Greenlee, just 16 at the time, was sent to prison for life.
Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, friends and Army veterans, were sentenced to death, but the U.S. Supreme Court later overturned their convictions and ordered a retrial. Before that could happen, though, McCall shot them both. Shepherd died at the scene, but Irvin — who played dead — survived, and his sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
Some decades later…
Fear gripped the small town of Denison, Tex., after 18-year-old Breana Harmon Talbott burst into a church on a Wednesday night, bleeding and wearing only a shirt, bra and underwear. She said that three black men in ski masks had kidnapped her.
On Wednesday, nearly two weeks after Talbott burst into the church, police said called her story a “hoax” and the allegations deemed “officially UNFOUNDED.” In a statement, the police chief admonished Talbott for the turmoil she caused in the community and for making offensive claims about African Americans.
“The so-called victim in the case confessed to the hoax last evening (March 21) to a member of the investigative team working the case,” read a news release by the Denison Police Chief Jay Burch. “Talbott’s hoax was also insulting to our community and especially offensive to the African-American community due to her description of the so-called suspects in her hoax.”
In a new poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on Tuesday, a whopping 43 percent of Americans told researchers that discrimination against whites has become as large a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minority groups.
The problem is not that we have a bunch of racist teachers and administrators. I believe most educators want to help all children. But many aren't aware of the biases and prejudices that they, like all of us, harbor, and our current system offers very little diversity training to preschool staff.
Moreover, if police start stopping and frisking hundreds of thousands of white women and men in the manner they’ve been searching young men of color, they will undoubtedly issue some summonses and make some arrests. There are middle-class white people in possession of illegal guns — not to mention heroin, illegal prescription painkillers, and marijuana. The success rates may not be high. But this shouldn’t deter police officials. After all, low success rates haven’t dissuaded them from searching young men of color for contraband and firearms.
Sounds fair to me. If you object to being stopped by the police, you probably have something to hide, right? Only criminals need to worry.
To identify 12 Years a Slave as merely a story about slavery is to miss what makes race the furious and often pathological subtext of American politics in the Obama era.
I am not the only native to feel this way. Here’s an old native New Yorker joke — Q: what’s the definition of a gentrifier? A: someone who arrived five minutes after you did.
“We go out there and we summons people,” Inspector McCormack said. The way to suppress violent crime, he said, was for officers to stop, question and, if necessary, frisk “the right people at the right time, the right location.”
“The right people” seems to include musician friends of mine who are simply going about their business in Brooklyn. Granted, some of them are suspiciously black and male.