In this chapter of her book, Taylor brings to light several different police killings of Black civilians that have occurred in recent years. While I was aware of many of the killings, I was taken aback by several of the details Taylor included. The fact that unarmed civilians are getting killed is extremely troubling, but the way that these tragedies are being dealt with by certain people is just as inexplicable and disheartening. It was devastating to read how police officers responded to Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and equally infuriating to be reminded that Darren Wilson and several other police officers who have killed innocent Black people have hardly been punished, if at all, for their actions.
So many things about the police’s handling of Mike Brown’s death were utterly wrong. First, of course, is the fact that they let the teenager’s dead body lie festering on the ground in the summer heat for several hours before allowing Brown’s parents to identify the body as their son’s. Then is the way that the police handled the protests. Without hesitation, Ferguson police pointed their weapons at unarmed civilians while wearing wristbands that read “I AM DARREN WILSON,” seemingly giving off the message that the police viewed Wilson, who was the murderer, as the victim.
That’s not even what stuck with me the most though—the most poignant image that Taylor left in my head was of the police’s blatant disregard for Mike Brown’s memorial. Multiple times, they drove over the flowers that Brown’s mother had placed as a tribute and wrecked the foundation of what the people of Ferguson had created to honor their lost peer, and one officer even let his dog pee on the memorial. The repeated action of destroying Brown’s memorial essentially says, Mike Brown’s life does not matter to us.
Just as bad is the fact that Darren Wilson was not even indicted, so much as convicted, for his role in Brown’s death despite overwhelming evidence. Other unbelievable verdicts have been reached in similar cases. For example, in New York, officer Daniel Pantaleo choked an unarmed Black male by the name of Eric Garner to death. Video footage of this unjustified killing picked up Garner uttering the words “I can’t breathe” eleven times. That Pantaleo killed Garner was no less than a clear fact; yet, like Wilson, he was not indicted. It is simply unfathomable that cases against many of these officers are built upon such strong evidence but have sometimes not even yielded punishments for those who are so obviously guilty.
While #BlackLivesMatter has gained widespread attention across the United States, not everyone is on board yet, which Taylor made clear through her accounts. Out of everything we’ve read thus far, this chapter was the most gut-wrenching piece for me. It’s encouraging to know that more and more people are joining these movements, but so long as the police and legal system continue to turn a blind eye towards what’s taking place in our country, we will never experience the change that so many of us are seeking. The failure to indict, let alone appropriately sentence, police officers for committing such gross misconduct is a sign that Black lives still don’t matter to many of the people who are calling the shots.