AFRICANGLOBE – On Saturday, two New York City police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, needlessly lost their lives when a lone gunman, suffering from clear mental health issues, executed them while they sat in their squad car in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Before killing them, he shot his ex-girlfriend Shaneka Thompson in the stomach, after breaking into her building and arguing with her about their past relationship. Because the shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, bragged on Instagram about avenging the deaths of various black men killed by police in the last several months, many commentators began falsely equating the act of a deranged vigilante with the politics of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Whipped into a predictable but regrettable frenzy, the NYPD blamed the mayor for showing empathy with protestors, declared themselves a “wartime police department,” and promised that they would “act accordingly.” In the midst of understandable grief and perhaps fear, the NYPD and those who support them uncritically have chosen to engage in the kind of dishonest, incendiary rhetoric that only inflames an already volatile situation.
Let us not forget that the same police who claim protestors have gone to war against them antagonized demonstrators by wearing shirts proclaiming, “I can breathe” in the midst of demonstrations last week. Police also held #BlueLivesMatter rallies. Their callous disregard for Eric Garner’s life should be set alongside their demand for our automatic grief and empathy for these slain officers.
To be clear, I am deeply disheartened by the pain and grief that the families of Officers Liu and Ramos must now endure. Those officers did not deserve to lose their lives. But the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, John Crawford and Tamir Rice are worthy of equal empathy.
These men and boys did not deserve to lose their lives either. Their families’ grief matters just as much. Their communities’ sense of an injustice having been done is just as legitimate. The truth about the magnitude of unjust and unjustifiable Black death perpetrated at the hands of police officers does not go away because of the misguided, wrongheaded act of a lone gunman.
By: Brittney Cooper
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