You're killing us, White America: How the Samuel DuBose murder exposes a system designed to destroy Black lives

For once, a police officer was charged with murder. But even now, we have reasons to doubt the system's sincerity

Published August 3, 2015 11:59AM (EDT)

Photos of Samuel DuBose hang on a pole at a memorial, Wednesday July 29, 2015 in Cincinnati, near where he was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer.        (AP/Tom Uhlman)
Photos of Samuel DuBose hang on a pole at a memorial, Wednesday July 29, 2015 in Cincinnati, near where he was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer. (AP/Tom Uhlman)

As more and more information comes out about the murder of Samuel DuBose -- who was shot in the head by University of Cincinnati officer Roy Tensing last month while sitting in his car during a traffic stop --  stories are emerging about the two officers who supported Tensing's false narrative of the shooting: officers Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt. In direct contravention to video evidence, the officers corroborated Tensing's lie that DuBose dragged him and therefore his life was in danger. Furthermore, Kidd was among seven University of Cincinnati police officers who were named in the wrongful death of another Black man, Kelly Brinson, in 2010.

The Dubose shooting comes on the heels of another miscarriage of justice, the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell, garnering massive attention on #BlackTwitter and beyond. Since that tragedy another four Black women have been found dead in their cells: Raynette Turner, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones, and Kindra Chapman.

Less attention has been given to the deaths of indigenous peoples at the hands of police under similar circumstances: Just a week before Sandra Bland was found dead, a Lakota woman named Sarah Lee Circle Bear was found unresponsive in her cell. Just a day after Sandra Bland was found dead, a community activist and Choctaw man named Rexdale Henry was found dead in a Mississippi jail cell. On July 12, Paul Castaway, a Lakota Sioux tribal citizen, was shot and killed by police in Denver.

White America, you’re killing us. Your law enforcement officers, your criminal justice systems, your jail cells are all weapons of mass destruction. Based on the legacy of 500 years of settler colonialism, land theft, war, slave trading, enslavement, broken treaties, reservations, segregation, the Trail of Tears, the 4,000+ lynchings between 1877 and 1950, and collective violence against Black communities, White America has built an edifice of violence in the psychology and culture of white police officers and correctional officers that continues to dehumanize indigenous and Black lives.

If #AllLivesMattered, then White supremacy would be widely acknowledged, and White America would be working to repent for the legacies of violence against Black and indigenous populations. Instead, when state-sanctioned violence is exacted in America, hardly anyone in White America makes serious effort to seriously combat the racism that is part of its cultural and political DNA. Most of the time, the nation ignores it.

Even the indictment in the DuBose shooting, one of the swiftest actions that we’ve seen in years, is fraught with significant issues. Officials in Cincinnati openly worried that the videotape where Tensing shot and killed DuBose looked so bad that a reprisal of the Cincinnati uprising of 2001 would occur.  Prosecutor Joseph Deters’ indictment of Tensing demonstrates that justice for Sam Dubose was not approached with a sense of real moral outrage, but one of expediency -- to preemptively quell another uprising. Even when White America does what seems to be right, it is doing it the wrong way. It shouldn’t take the threat of uprisings, civil unrest, civil disturbances, or riots for prosecutors to charge and convict officers of murder.

And in the DuBose murder case in particular, it appears that we are being led on another dog-and-pony show. Officer Tensing has been released on $1 million bail and is asking for his job back. Meanwhile, his colleagues and his corroborators Lindenschmidt and Kidd have been released from any culpability for their statements supporting Tensing’s false story, as the grand jury has returned no charges against them.

Are we witnessing a system that is failing or one that is working as it was designed to work? According to a recent study, there are over 2,400 prosecutors in this country and 95 percent of them are white  Seventy-nine percent of those prosecutors are white men. Only 4 percent are people of color and just 1 percent are women of color. This is a system that is designed to protect white lives that inflict bodily harm on Black and indigenous populations, rarely prosecuting and convicting police who kill without due cause.

This is a system that is working to achieve exactly what has been perpetrated against Indigenous and Black folk since Europeans landed on Plymouth Rock.  As Malcolm X famously proclaimed: “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, the rock was landed on us.”

White America, when are you going to lift the rock of white supremacy and stop allowing police to get away with murder?

By Lawrence Brown

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

#blacklivesmatter Police Abuse Police Violence Race Racism Roy Tensing Samuel Dubose White Supremacy