The recent murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were acts of violence that no one condones. But we should keep in mind the seemingly endless incidents of violence black men and women have been subjected to by police — for decades.
Even when no one is killed, some of these stories are especially searing: Earlier this month a Miami cop shot and wounded an unarmed black man lying in the street with his hands up. The victim was a therapist at a group home who was trying to coax an autistic man to come back inside. The patient was playing with a toy truck. Someone called the police. When they arrived, the therapist lay on his back, put his hands up, and shouted,
“All he has is a toy truck in his hand. That’s all it is. There is no need for guns.”
The policeman fired anyway. Three times. One bullet hit the therapist in the leg.
Later the policeman claimed he was aiming for the man with the toy truck, that he thought the toy was a gun, that he was trying to protect the therapist.
But here is what is especially telling: The police still handcuffed this unarmed man, the one who was not holding the toy, even after he was shot, even after he had repeatedly identified himself as a therapist — and left him lying on the hot Miami pavement for 20 minutes while waiting for an ambulance.
There are other, more insidious ways in which African-Americans are abused — economic exploitation. The Department of Justice (DOJ) exposed this form of abuse after an especially explosive incident in Ferguson, Missouri.
On August 9, 2014, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed African-American. After the officer was cleared of all charges, there were peaceful protests as well as rioting.