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Moments later, Terence Crutcher was sprawled across the pavement, his shirt stained with blood.
This is how we live. In the U.S., black men are often viewed as naturally more violent and “bad dudes” for doing nothing, while someone like Dylann Roof can get Burger King delivered while he’s being arrested for mass murder. Black boys are viewed as more mature, and therefore dangerous, than they actually are – the original dispatch between Columbus police officers described King as a 20-year-old man. This is the insidious nature of white supremacy.
It is disgusting that police officers have shot and killed 173 black people this year alone. It is disgusting that last year, that number was 258. It is disgusting that black lives are forced into statistics like these, that sons and daughters and brothers and teachers and students and people – real, multifaceted people – are turned into the same headline over and over: “Another black person fatally shot by police.”
No matter the ratio of black fatalities to those of other races by police this year (25 percent), no matter how many white people try to bring up black-on-black crime in discussions of race, no matter how officials misconstrue or deliberately twist the problem to be about replica handguns or gang violence or poverty rather than about inadequate, racist police officers – we have to listen to black Americans when people tell us that they are under siege. We have to believe black Americans when they explain how easy it is to be killed while black in America. We have to give a damn.
Last month, Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, celebrated their 40th birthday with him. On Sept. 20, at a news conference, she was talking about his death. Tiffany Crutcher addressed the last comment made about her brother while he was alive – the police officer’s assertion that he was a “bad dude.”
“You all want to know who that big ‘bad dude’ was,” she said in a video published by Tulsa World. “That big ‘bad dude’ was my twin brother. That big ‘bad dude’ was a father. That big ‘bad dude’ was a son. That big ‘bad dude’ was enrolled at Tulsa Community College – just wanting to make us proud. That big ‘bad dude’ loved God. That big ‘bad dude’ was at church singing, with all his flaws, every week.”
Tiffany Crutcher ended by calling upon the name of Black Lives Matter, the now-internationally-known activist organization founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi as a direct response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot yet another black boy – 17-year-old Trayvon Martin – on Feb. 26, 2012.
“That big ‘bad dude,’” Tiffany Crutcher said, “his life mattered.”
To get involved with Black Lives Matter, go here.
Photo courtesy of Paladin Justice, Creative Commons