It would be easy to look at the disappointing verdict of Betty Shelby for the shooting death of Terence Crutcher on its face and say this case was another case of the Tulsa Police Department “getting away with another one.” But that maybe ignoring a bigger and more important question: “Why do these kinds of killings happen?”
The idea of Americans living in fear of being hurt by those charged with protecting us is more than most can understand. From a mental health stand point it is maddening.
For a majority of Americans getting pulled over is not a terrible ordeal, but for people of color being pulled over could be their last moments on earth. If getting pulled over happens often, think what that does to one’s psyche. Would anyone get so fed up they’d become sick and tired of it? The answer is yes.
To live in the freest place in the world, but worry the police may shoot you is sickening and it is easy to see why some black men don’t just do what police say. We are not promoting disobedience, this is just a realization of the reality.
From a perspective of pure morality and decency, fear of police must be a crushing feeling. To see Betty Shelby brought into the halls of justice only to be found not guilty and to witness, after the jury verdict, behind closed doors, her champagne celebration in the opulent setting of privilege and glee would offend the sense of decency of thoughtful people. At a minimum, by her mistaken belief, Shelby took an innocent life when her life was never in danger. Shouldn’t she express remorse? Her actions speak louder than her words. Understandably, many people swell in anger at her. But, can we afford anger?
In days past, justifiable anger spread across a nation sick of a continuing pattern of death at the hands of government for nothing more than a hatred for dark skin.
As described by the great historian, Theodore White, most Americans believe “we are good.” Why not, it’s written right there in the constitution. Don’t we rush to the aide of oppressed people all over the world? We are the good guys. So great is our goodness, we can stand in judgement of any nation that mistreats its citizens and harms them in cruel ways.
But, the same history Theodore White also reminds us of thousands of African Americans who were rounded up and hung. Where was American justice in those terrible days? Where was justice when men and boys where hung in public display- pure evil?
Would a rallying call for pushing back with hatred be appropriate? Of course, throwing gas on the fire of our pain would be equally insane and yes evil. Can we oppose racism with racism? We must forge reconciliation not pursue retaliation. We must exercise love for our oppressors, that doesn’t blink in the face of the ugliest responses. We know love because hatred has never worked and the power of love is reason enough to try.
Abe Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John and Robert Kennedy and Nelson Mandala have shown us the way. In the midst of unspeakable pain, the Crutcher family has already chosen the same way. We must follow their example
As the headlines continue to be filled with more deaths caused by police, we are reminded of the singer, Billie Holliday. She ended many of her shows with the song, Strange Fruit. It was a hauntingly somber song about “black bodies swinging in the southern breeze. Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”
In her day, lynching black folks was common place. Today, it seems common place for police to kill black folk- a strange and bitter crop. Today, lynching has been replaced with guns and laws that protect “peace-makers.”
If policies allow Americans to be killed with the widest latitudes and smallest provocation then the laws governing lethal force need to be tightened and better defined.
The policy of cracking down on people of color with unequal treatment of the law is damaging our moral fiber. In love, we must find a way to stop this killing by serial killers.