How are things in Charlotte? You ok? Over the last few days, both of those questions have been directed toward me via e-mail, phone and text. On my block, on my street, in my house, and in this suede recliner, where I sit while I write this, things are quiet, and I am safe. But if I should choose to wander into the night, I won’t be safe. No more or less safe than usual. The standard amount of danger. Because it’s open season on Black men in America.
North Carolina is not the best nor is it the worst. State House Republicans have done the regular job of voter suppression, and they’ve passed a law that restricts bathroom privileges for the transgender community – business as usual. Polls indicate that Clinton and Trump are tied in a dead heat. It’s a state that Obama barely lost in the last election and one that he won in the previous cycle. In many ways, North Carolina is the beginning of the North. It is a state that is making a real effort to leave the roots of its agrarian based Jim Crow economy in the past.
I’ve been coming to North Carolina for a long time now. My mother and father were both natives who met while they were in college here in Charlotte. NC is a second home. Charlotte is the largest city in both Carolinas, and it’s populated by progressives who work in the financial community – recent arrivals from all over the world with sophisticated tastes in food, ballet and art. There’s an NBA franchise owned and operated by Michael Jordan, and the defending NFC Champion Panthers feature a game changing MVP at the quarterback position.
Much of Charlotte is state of the art. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Keith Lamont Scott was executed in cold blood by agents of the state while he sat in a car waiting for his child to come home on a bus. We shouldn’t be surprised because for the past few years, agents of the state have been murdering unarmed Black men, women and children in cold blood and getting away wth it. I’m old enough to remember several examples of trigger happy policing that pre-date the Internet, but here and now, cell phone cameras are capturing these dirty deeds and the images of the true face of racist white supremacist practices can now be beamed around the globe instantaneously.
So you say a Black cop pulled the trigger and a black police chief is managing the aftermath? That doesn’t mean that the cumulative effects of negative media, poor schools, real estate redlining, racist courts and all sorts of discriminatory practices didn’t all come into play at the time Keith Lamont Scott was killed, because after all, we live in a racist society whether or not someone else gets shot today. A society that tells us over and over in large and small ways that Black Lives don’t Matter.
Witnesses say Keith Lamont Scott was reading a book. The police claim he had a gun. Scott’s wife knew the stakes instantly. She watched and taped the actions of a murderous Black cop while yelling all along, “Don’t you shoot him. Don’t you shoot him,” and alternately telling her husband repeatedly, “Get out of the car.” Neither her husband or the cop heeded her attempts to manage the situation to a peaceful resolution. She knew that on that day Keith Lamont Scott’s Black Life didn’t Matter enough.
Keith Lamont Scott’s daughter had a cell phone camera too. The footage revealed a shrieking young woman who can not believe that her father has been shot by a cop in broad daylight, and in front of witnesses, while cameras are taping their every move. The sheer arrogance that it takes to take a life under those conditions is shockingly appalling. On top of all of this, it has been reported that the cops were there with a warrant to arrest someone else. Kenneth Lamont Scott was only guilty of reading while Black.
So you ask why riot? I say why not? Charlotte is not Mars. The people have seen what has happened in Cleveland, in Tulsa in Ferguson and Staten Island. They know that they are a hunted species. They know that the corrupt law officials who have perpetrated state sactioned murder have not been prosecuted, or that the cases have not been adjudicated fairly. They know that selling CDs or loose cigarettes, or having their car conk out can be considered crimes punishable by death. Deaths that don’t result in arrests, trials or convictions. Deaths where racists submit that it’s hard to be a cop and that if the victims just hadn’t moved, or had they complied, or hadn’t been brandishing a toy gun, or hadn’t been running away in the opposite direction then they’d still be alive. The numbers and the citizen shot cell phone footage indicate that that just doesn’t ring true.
And so the people have taken to the street looking for justice. Because when a cop kills your father, or your husband, your sister, your neighbor or your wife. Who are you going to call? The mayor? The chief of police? CNN? No, the people know that the only thing to do is bring the light of day to corrupt practices. Video tape, protest, fight, riot.
On the whole, Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights led protests were peaceful, but riots during that era in Watts, Newark, Detroit and other districts were not. Federal lawmaking and budgeting was very responsive to both approaches. It was this type of action that led to reforms in Ferguson and new political blood in Baltimore too. The same type of action that has the eyes of the world trained on local police here in The Queen City. Because one thing you can be certain of, we live in a system that values the sanctity of Walmart and Target locations over human life. Now that the dust has settled, and the calm has set in, maybe some one with the people’s interests in mind will remind all that Black Lives Matter enough to riot over their illegal and unjust loss.