I lost sleep over Stephon Clark last night. I lost sleep over the fact that if he were white and stood accused of breaking windows in a white neighborhood then he would still be alive. As a matter of fact he would probably be out on bond. The chances of a 22-year-old white man actually going to jail for the crimes that Stephon Clark alleged to have committed seem very slim to me. In the middle of the night I thought about the criminalization of black bodies and how the practice lends itself to this case. It was reported that Oscar Grant was fighting on the BART train and was being belligerent, which was why he was murdered. Renisha Mcbride was drunk and that’s why she was killed. Sandra Bland wouldn’t put out her cigarette. Trayvon Martin and Alton Sterling were both high. Mike Brown stole a box of cigars. And somehow, in the consciousness of Americans, when these misdemeanors are committed by black people then they are punishable by death.
The campaign against the character of Stephon Clark is going really strong right now. Not only was he breaking windows but according to his tweets he doesn’t like black women claiming; “I don’t want nothing black but an X-box, dark bitches bring dark days.” Though this statement is not criminal, one cannot dismiss the fact that it is being brought to light in an effort to separate him from his core support group which is black women. The mother of his children—who is Asian—also tweeted something about not wanting to have dark children, which Stephon Clark cosigned. Now I don’t want to totally dismiss the problem with his tweets because self-hatred is real and it needs to be addressed in our community. A dark-skinned man who lives with his dark-skinned grandmother cannot hate dark skinned women without hating himself—period. In addition to his apparent disdain for women who look like him, if the man was out breaking into cars and breaking windows then he needed help. Whether robbery was the motive or he had a nervous breakdown I think we all can agree that vandalism is a terrible and inconsiderate act. But the problem isn’t that people are excusing the accusations brought against Mr. Clark in his wake but rather, the issue is these incidents are being brought forward in an attempt to justify his murder by the hands of the Sacramento Police Department. What the power structure wants us to do is to say because he destroyed property, and because he referred to black woman as bitches then I’m ok with him being shot 8 times (6 times in the back) while he was unarmed in his grandmother’s back yard. They want us to disregard his humanity and label him in our conscious minds as just another nigger.
But Stephon deserves to be alive. He deserves to be able to kiss his children and to hug is grandmother. If he is indeed guilty of vandalism then he deserves the right to be innocent until proven guilty. He deserves the right to feel the sun on his dark skin in the middle of a hot and dry Sacramento summer. He deserves to be able to take trips to Reno or the Bay Area with his brother. He deserves the right to grow into his best self and work, and play, and do too much, and fall down, and learn how to be a man. He doesn’t deserve to be killed in the process and we should not judge him because for him the process will forever be incomplete. We should love him no matter what his imperfections were and we should be disheartened that he was executed in such callous fashion.
Stephon Clark deserves to be alive and the officers who murdered him deserve to be prosecuted. We must never forget this truth.
These executions of black people by police do not end until the perpetrators of this form of violence hear cell doors slamming behind them. And that is not even close to happening at the state level. On the rare occasions when a cop is charged, there is either no trial or no conviction.
If these people are ever to be prosecuted and convicted, it really has to start with the Department of Justice and continue until it becomes a known fact that there are consequences for killing unarmed people who are not a threat. However, under Trump and Sessions, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ will be decimated. It will be the task of the next Democratic administration to rebuild the DOJ and aggressively prosecute civil rights violations. And, as the Democratic Party’s most loyal voting bloc, this is what black people must demand.
How else does this end? And if it doesn’t end it just simply escalates which is what is happening right now. We thought the videos of some of these brutal murders would make a difference, but we certainly haven’t reached a tipping point. Perhaps more people are aware of the crisis, but outside of black communities there isn’t nearly enough public outrage to demand an end to the violence. So much for the hearts and minds approach, it never works.
These are human rights violations, pure and simple. As you said, Stephon Clark deserves to be alive. So does Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling and countless others.