Malcolm X said “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out, much less healed the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.”
Racism and white supremacy are the knives that have been in the backs of oppressed people throughout American history. Today racism and white supremacy are more covert, but police brutality is their overt form. The tragedies of Mike Brown and Eric Garner are well known due to the immense levels of outrage that each death caused. These two horrors, and hundreds like them such as Tamir Rice, illustrate a simple truth: the knife that Malcolm X spoke of is still in the back of minorities throughout America.
Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy walking around a park in Cleveland with a pellet gun that resembled a real gun because it didn’t have the orange safety tip. Officers arrived after a 911 caller said a male who was probably a juvenile was walking around with a gun that was “probably fake.” The officers arrived and Tamir was shot twice in less than two seconds. During that time, the officers’ claim is that they told him to hold his hands in the air and that Tamir reached for a gun on his waist. Two seconds was all it took to sentence Tamir Rice to death.
There are some who believe that if Tamir Rice wasn’t walking around with a gun, even though Ohio is an open carry state, he wouldn’t have been shot. This is barefaced victim blaming and only serves as a fig leaf to cover America’s shame—the shame of human rights violations happening right now in this country. The lives of people of color are taking with a seemingly blatant disregard for the God-given, inalienable human right to life. Sadly, human rights violations like this are common in America. Replace Tamir Rice with Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, or Andy Lopez and you find a disturbing pattern of the unjustified lethal force used against men and women of color.
The horror gets worse when you consider that the officers involved in the murders of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and hundreds of others are usually not charged and if they are, they are acquitted nearly all of the time and generally go right back to work. Police brutality against people of color is possibly the most visible relic of a miserable past where being black in the wrong place was a crime or being black and flirting with the wrong white woman resulted in you being beaten, getting an eye gouged out, and shot through the head. The knife is there, police brutality is a human rights abuse occurring in America, rooted in the racism of the past, but the American public and government must acknowledge it as the evil that it is so that the knife can be removed and so that the mutilation caused by oppression can truly begin to heal.