[The Garfield Bulldog football team takes a knee during the national anthem Friday at the Southwest Athletic Complex. Visiting Garfield played West Seattle. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times.]
Over the last few days, people have posted news stories and videos on social media, accompanied with feelings of anger, dismay, and pain about the violent death of Terence Crutcher at the hands of police officers. Let’s just go ahead and call it what it is — state violence and murder.
Terence Crutcher’s vehicle broke down on the interstate. He was on his way home from the community college where he takes classes, and with a stalled SUV, he was in need of aid. He committed no crime, and he had no weapon. As it circled above, a helicopter captured video. Police cars nearby also captured the footage. While the video is recording, Terence Crutcher holds his hands up and complies with orders. From the helicopter, we hear someone say that he looks like a “bad dude.” On what basis does he make such assumptions and assertions?
We never hear the words that are spoken on the ground, but there is no lunge or act of aggression in that video, even in defense as police officers have their weapons drawn. Instead, suddenly, there’s a man dying on the pavement from gunshot wounds, and officers do nothing to render aid. Instead, one begins to console Betty Shelby, the police officer who shot Terence Crutcher. They do not assist his dying body. They do not console him as a person.
Terence Crutcher, a beloved father of four children, church leader, student, musician, and friend is now additionally one more unarmed, black person killed for no crime and no aggression. And the nation waits again, sadly expecting more of the same. When police officers practice brutality and exact violent death of unarmed citizens, especially citizens of color, they rarely face accountability in the justice system.
The police officers who killed Tamir Rice, Natasha McKenna, Eric Garner, Aura Rosser, and John Crawford never went to trial. Four police officers were indicted in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, but in the end, none of them was held responsible. There are other examples also.
I do not paint all police officers with a broad brush, as I know they do not all behave in these ways. But we have a larger system of injustice and a code of silence which keeps accountability from being realized. This renders safety unrealized.
So today, I want to say this clearly:
This is the reason Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national anthem.
It is not to disrespect veterans.
It is not to disrespect patriots.
It is a cry and a call for respect —
respect for people of color,
respect for their value,
respect for their lives, and
respect for their families.
It is a cry and a call for respect
to live in a nation without
state violence, and
So where is our outrage for this? Does it not deserve our outrage, undivided attention, and wholehearted action? If so, we can learn how to stop patterns of police brutality in our nation and act.
Or we can just add our misplaced outrage to the young students who follow Colin Kaepernick in protest. They are experiencing lowered grades and death threats for taking a knee or refusing to stand. By all means, if we have no empathy or decency, we can just place all of our outrage there.