Excuse me as I step away from African issues for 5 minutes.
Who remembers the Sean Bell shooting? For those of you who were unaware, this is basically what happened.
Some cops shot yet another unarmed innocent Black man 50 times. Wait, it’s not that simple. Let me give you the “facts”.
Sean was at a bachelor party with some friends in Jamaica, Queens, New York. This was around Thanksgiving 2006, so spirits were high all across the country. Being that this was a bachelor party, the usual shenanigans were in full effect: strippers, booze, strippers, cigars, booze and strippers. As the story goes, undercover police were at the very same club Bell was, investigating rumors of a prostitution ring or something. They claim to have been completely focused on this mission. They instead got distracted by an argument outside as Bell’s posse exited the club. The cops thought they heard one of the men say “Get my gun”. So they decided to close in on the parked vehicle, where the commotion had halted. At the time, Sean Bell and 2 of his cohorts were in the car. Here’s where the testimony gets dicey. There was supposedly a fourth man(nobody saw him except the cops) who was the root of the initial dispute and of the imminent attack. So based on an imaginary 4th man, and the premise that a Black man may have said “gun”, the cops got locked and loaded.
One plain-clothes cop jumps out of the car in front of Bell’s, gun drawn(he claimed he had his badge out, which turned out to be a lie). His other undercover brothers also rush the vehicle with pistols out from all sides.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I see 5-6 dudes with guns and no uniforms running up on me, and my only weapon is a car, I stomp the gas like there’s a snake under the pedal.
Which is what Bell did and bumped into one of the officers.
Then the car got shot at. 50 times .
Many witnesses stated that cops came out of their cars shooting(which made more sense), and by all accounts no one gave any warning before opening fire. I think an autopsy report somewhere revealed that he’d been shot before accelerating the vehicle amongst other sinister allegations.
So Bell’s soon to be wife and 2 young daughters found themselves estranged because a cop thought he might have heard someone mention a gun. With tons of testimonies and all the facts in place, you’d expect this to be a clear cut murder trial, right? I mean, at least assault given that they put 2 people in ICU and one in a grave. Or if nothing else, Reckless Endangerment, seeing as innocent bystanders at a train station nearby had to duck and dive from bullets and shattering glass. The cops had to go down for something.
Wrong. In fact, it wasn’t even cause for ejection from the NYPD. Dudes were acquitted of all charges this past weekend. From Reckless Endangerment, to Assault, and even Murder. They also kept their badges and guns and paychecks and I think two of them got a vacation.
Normally, I’d shrug this off and not care but seeing as I’m based in the US when I’m not in Kenya, it kind of scares me profoundly that my skin color means I’m eligible for ad-hoc target practice. It pains me even more that while my close friends are getting locked up for things they didn’t do, cops get Carte Blanche because they are police. It’s not about race as much as it is about Justice. Justice that will never be served. We’ve seen it with Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Patrick Dorishmond… I mean, I could go on all day if you let me. The point being, being Black in America, African or not, means your rights are only as relevant as the judge decides them to be.
Let Justice remain blind to color, profession, and politics, but not to reality.
R.I.P. to Sean Bell and prayers and strength to his family.
Now back to your regularly scheduled African banter.