UPDATE WITH CORRECTION:
AFTER THIS ARTICLE WAS INITIALLY PUBLISHED NEW INFORMATION CAME TO LIGHT THAT REVEALED THAT THE TEENS BEING HELD AT GUNPOINT HAD BEEN REPORTED BY A CONVENIENCE STORE CLERK AS HAVING TRIED TO SHOPLIFT AND THAT ONE OF THEM WAS POTENTIALLY ARMED. This new information gave the officers involved a sound reason to be armed as they detained the teens. Occupy Democrats regrets the misinformation that was inadvertently circulated.
You can read the full background on the updated story here.
Here is what was originally published.
If you want to see how the effects of systemic institutional racism have become ingrained in our society and are passed on to the next generation, look no further than a viral video posted on Twitter this week by BlackCultureEntertainment.
The video shows a young black boy practicing his basketball skills in a driveway in a scene that could be found in any suburban neighborhood.
It’s not a dramatic video by any means. There is no conflict, no screaming, no angry words, no violence, not even a crowd — just a solitary boy and a passing police car.
The video is subtle on its own, with its poignancy derived only when one notices that the child reflexively hides behind a car in his driveway when the police car passes by.
Whether this young boy was tutored by his parents to be wary of police and avoid any encounters at all costs due to the inherent dangers that even an unarmed and totally innocent kid would potentially face when stopped for any reason whatsoever by law enforcement or whether he was bright enough to learn through the media or through prior personal experience to keep as low a profile as possible in their presence is as yet unknown.
However, as a distillation of the broken relationship between the police and the communities of people of color in this country, the video is an effective vignette that demonstrates just how deeply rooted the fear of unjust targeting by law enforcement is among African Americans in America.
You don’t need drama to illustrate that conclusion effectively. Just the simple reflex to hide when the police are present tells us all that we need to know about our broken our justice system is and how difficult it will be to fix it when overcoming years of social conditioning will be necessary to restore trust among black and other minority communities that the law enforcement officers are indeed there to “protect and serve” them as well.
That the child’s watchful paranoia was justified was made apparently clear in another video shared on social media today that shows exactly what could have potentially happened to the dribbling youth actually did happen to six children in Clayton County, Georgia — at least five of whom were black — when they used a locally familiar shortcut to get to their destination a little more quickly.
The commentary heard on the video by the woman recording it as an outraged crowd gathers asks all of the questions likely running through our own minds as we watch it.
“I’m sick,” the woman says in reaction to what she is witnessing. “They can’t. Come on, now. Please! Please, sir, they’re kids.”
“Why do you have a gun?” the woman asks the police officer.
“I have to check them for myself,” he answers.
“But why do you have a gun?” the woman insistently asks. “They are kids. What are they doing? What did they do wrong?”
Protect and serve? More like command and control.
The kids got away with a warning, but one must wonder what emotional scars they will carry with them and how it will affect their relationships with law enforcement and their attitudes towards the police in the future.
Things must change. Police reform has to become a top priority in our communities and systemic racism must be ended.
Listen to the people in the streets.
Original reporting by David Edwards at RawStory.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.