The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, February 11, 2005

The LAPD shooting of Devon Brown

I've been listening all week to screaming about the shooting of Devon Brown. Because I have been nauseated at the number of times I hear of white officers shooting unarmed black folks, I listen very very closely. This 13 year old boy was in a stolen car which led the police on a brief freeway chase. The driver fled, and apparently Brown backed the car toward the parked police car. The officer opened fire. These are pretty much the facts. What disturbs me is the fact that everyone reporting the facts embroiders one way or another. Everyone. they skip over vital information, they inferr without clarifying that they are playing with facts, they obscure, they sensationalize. THIS BOY IS DEAD. It appears to be part of a pattern of white officers (and for hte purposes of this, until proven otherwise, Officer Garcia is going to be considered white--until I see a picture that indicates he is more Asian or African in genetics) having a dangerously cavalier attitude toward unloading their sidearms on unarmed dark people. Not that I say "appeared." I don't know. What I DO know is that dark-skinned people can point to a multi-century pattern of abuse and murder that has rarely been acknowledged, and continues to dishearten them. Has it ended? Some say yes--but curiously, many of those who say "yes" imply that nothing much negative ever happened at all. I do know that when the Rodney King beating was caught on tape, every black person I knew held their breath. EVERY ONE OF THEM knew of other cases like this--that had not been so well documented, and therefore denied by whites. When it was caught on tape, we thought: "Wow! At last it can't be denied that something horrible happened." But it was denied. And the jury did bring in the non-guilty verdict. And all over L.A., black people felt that this was solid evidence that the deck was stacked, that their lives were not valued, and that only a fool would play a rigged game--so they kicked the table over. It was self-destructive, criminal, regrettable--and human as hell. BOTH sides indulge in denial. BOTH sides pretend that they hold the virtue. Cops are high-testosterone Alphas who stay in a hyper-excited state enough of the time to make them hair-trigger. Garcia's adrenaline must have been running sky-high after that chase. Is that an excuse? No. Did he do wrong? I don't know--but I can imagine myself behaving in a similar manner, and THAT is enough for me to say: hold on. Both sides. Let's see how it's handled. There is always time for hatred and violence. The boy is dead. Let's not honor him with more death. Every time a tragedy like this happens, there is a possibility for a bit of healing. Anyone who says "nothing has changed" (as I heard over and over on the radio) is ignorant of history--but I hear ignorance on BOTH sides of the issue.
We are building a better future. Don't politicize death. That is as evil as a deliberate murder. Let's hope Officer Garcia was a good man making the best decision he could. And if that's not true, let's hope he goes down in flames.

Better him than Los Angeles.


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