My father stands 6-foot-4 and weighs about 290 pounds — similar to the stature of Terence Crutcher, who was gunned down by a Tulsa, Oklahoma, policewoman claiming she thought he was on PCP.
One single shot and he was gone. “That could’ve been my dad,” I thought.
Police closed in on Crutcher, 40, whose car was reportedly stalled in the middle of the road. A helicopter operator narrated the tense scene from the air as four cops rallied around Crutcher on the open road, his arms raised in surrender.
“Time for a taser …That looks like a bad dude, too,” the unidentified officer commented.
Terence Crutcher was a father, a brother, and a son, but his Black skin led officers to the assumption that he was a “bad dude.” But he wasn’t.
The helicopter operator’s words exposed the rotten root of racism that continues to fester beneath the American narrative.
His perception is a mirror of ingrained prejudice. It’s baked into our systematic mode of operation as a country. So, let’s pull back the veil on “color blindness” and call it what it is: racism.
Forget about respectability politics and protocol, the Black man is a threat because the Black man exists.
It is this framework of fear that condemned Sean Bell as a suspect, not a husband-to-be. It was the same dehumanizing story that led a cop to shoot at 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who held a BB gun. Philando Castille, who was licensed to carry a weapon, died following police orders after being pulled over for a busted tail light.
And despite numerous examples of how cops manage to deescalate situations with other suspects, including the recent NYC bomber, who was alive when taken into custody despite a shootout with police, there is a crowd of talking heads who quickly yell “unpatriotic” before they can mumble the word “racism” or “police brutality.”
We watched conservative media berate NFL 49ers star Colin Kaepernick for not standing during the national anthem, off-setting their cozy Sunday Night Football games; yet those same sources are mum when it comes to speaking out against the injustices that led Kaepernick to take a knee in the first place. The quarterback wants him and his Black brothers to be seen as human. Black men are more than suspects, perpetrators, athletes, or entertainers forced into some comfortable performative identity, ex-cons and/or drug dealers. Black men are brothers, sons, husbands, kids, people.
We are asking for the same due process and right to trial without the assumption of guilt as Americans.
But when a White cop approaches your broken down car, assumes you are on PCP, with officers spitting rhetoric of, “That looks like a bad dude,” that’s not what the cop sees.
And until we are seen as people, and not threats, we will be continually gunned down.
My father is Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, and Eric Garner. But that’s hard to explain to an entire nation built upon the criminalization and dehumanization of Black skin.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Instagram