Every day we are bombarded with information – far more than we can handle thrown at us from a perspective we don’t understand. The most common response is outrage – disbelief that this could possibly happen.
Every day we find ourselves in situations we don’t understand – things that are going crazy around us.. The most common response is outrage – disbelief that this could possibly happen.
The officers responsible for the death of Jamar Clark on 15 November was one of these incidents, and the reports and (lack of) legal proceedings comes at us in much the same way. Everything about this makes no sense if you look deep enough into it yet everyone has an opinion about it. Let me tell you the simple, clear facts that we can be sure of:
Jamar Clark is dead. Any city that has been through this and wants to be known as “civilized” has to make sure that this does not happen ever again.
Last Wednesday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman outlined in great detail exactly why the police responsible for shooting Jamar Clark in the head will not be tried for a crime. It comes down to this – in the opinion of the attorney they had reason to fear for their lives, thus deadly force was justified. This appears to be the end of the road for any sense of Justice for Jamar.
There is one flaw at the heart of the explanation offered for the events that night, and that is the reason why it escalated in the first place. Freeman described the situation as a “domestic dispute” that the police were called to. But Rayann Hayes, the woman who called 911, says it was no such thing. She was injured earlier and her ankle was only getting worse when her friend, not boyfriend, Jamar told her to get an ambulance.
Apparently, the police who arrived on the scene believed for reasons still unknown that they were arriving on the scene of a domestic dispute. They apparently treated Clark accordingly. It also seems that, accused of a crime he did not commit, Clark lost his cool and the situation escalated from there. Eventually, he wound up with a police bullet in his brain.
As the news of this ripples outward in waves of reports everyone naturally has an opinion about the situation – despite the fact that hardly anyone was actually there. Many people who saw this as a domestic dispute could reasonably put the pieces together to see how the police were in a situation that required deadly force – except, of course, that this was not a domestic dispute.
Instead, what apparently happened was that Clark lost his cool and was executed for that.
Who or what should we be outraged by? I will stand by my earlier assertion that any time anything like this happens there is a problem with the system at the heart of it. Either the wrong police were hired, they were poorly trained, they were over-worked, they were not treated for the PTSD they incurred in the line of duty, or something else along those lines.
Away from the Minneapolis Police, there is no question that the community of North Minneapolis has been walled-off by freeways in an attempt to quarantine thousands into a ward of hopelessness where everyday life is a constant frustration and the only interaction with the system comes in blue with flashing lights.
There is no trust. The worst is always assumed by everyone. The only response is invariably outrage.
We must expect better from our police, who must be masters of de-escalating a situation rather than escalating it. We have to hold them to the highest possible standards and recruit the best we can from every community because diversity is more than a “politically correct” thing, it is a matter of life and death. And when we have those standards in place we must pay them appropriately to be the true and professional“thin blue line” that stands between chaos and civilization.
We’re not there yet. The police aren’t there, but more importantly the system isn’t there. We, as a people, are not anywhere near there yet. All we can feel is outrage.
Away from this incident, which so few of us were there to see, everything that blasts our minds from day to day is numbing. We respond with the lightening of adrenaline fueling our outrage because something outrageous did indeed happen. But everyone involved probably acted as they did because of what was in front of them at the moment for reasons that none of us can understand from afar.
Outrage is easy. Fixing the problems of our world is much, much harder. But to fix our problems requires compassion and understanding along with a commitment to not always assume the worst of everyone who has acted the way they have for reasons none of us understand.
Jamar Clark was apparently judged before he was executed. Outrage propelled the bullet into his brain as much as gunpowder. No matter what “The System” does or does not do to produce “Justice” for him, he is still dead.
All of us, everyone, have to stop allowing ourselves to slip so quickly into the easy trap of outrage. Civilization requires a more loving heart and a cooler head that can listen to every heartbeat even when our pulse isn’t throbbing through our bodies with outrage.
Many things went wrong that night. Many things still don’t completely make sense. The result was a senseless wrong that cannot happen again if we are going to call ourselves “civilized”. As long as there are two sides to the story working at opposite ends this event will be repeated over and over. There will be outrage at all levels – and outrage will fuel more outrage.
Only when the community is one and does not fear the police will this stop. Only when the police do not fear the community and automatically assume the worst will this stop.
Meanwhile, we are all outraged. Justifiably so when a young man is gunned down. But it will only stop when we move forward from the outrage and fix what has gone horribly wrong with love and respect for each other. Outrage only allows us to see and be the worst. We must insist on more.