It was the worst of times…
We don’t know why two white men decided to go to the black side of Tulsa, Oklahoma this past Friday on a shooting spree to randomly kill black people. Nineteen year old Jake England and thirty two year old Alvin Watts climbed into their pickup truck, took a quick drive to the north side of town, and shot five unarmed black men. Three of the five men were fatally wounded. The two men have been charged and are expected to face three counts of first degree murder and two cases of shooting with the intent to kill. The two men were arrested at their home on Sunday following an anonymous tip.
The three dead black men have been identified as forty nine year old Dannaer Fields, fifty four year old Bobby Clark, and thirty one year old William Allen. None of the victims are believed to have known each other or the assailants. All of the victims were simply out walking, minding their own business, when the two white men drove up and shot them. Although the reason for the shooting has yet to be determined for sure, Tulsa police have said that based on Jake England’s Facebook postings he may have been seeking revenge for his father’s death two years ago. On Thursday, Jake England posted an update that blamed the death of his father, Carl England, on a black man. Jake also used a derogatory racial slur to reference black people. Alvin Watts was Jake’s roommate.
Because some people might think that black people will use any excuse to protest, it should be noted that nobody from the black community is marching in the streets looking for national attention to help shame the authorities into doing their job to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. It looks like the police are already doing their job and need no prompting from anyone. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan promised that his officers would do whatever it took to apprehend those responsible for these vicious and cowardly attacks. The police have their suspects in custody and the investigation is continuing without any signs of abating three days later.
Now compare that to the investigation of the Trayvon Martin killing that happened more than six weeks ago in Sanford, Florida. On Sunday, February 26th, the Sanford police arrived at the site of nineteen year old Trayvon’s murder with his killer George Zimmerman still on the scene with a nine millimeter pistol in hand. Less than eight hours after Trayvon’s death, George Zimmerman was told that he was free to go home and he could take his murder weapon home. The authorities in Sanford, Florida made public statements that the investigation was concluded because there was insufficient evidence to contradict Mr. Zimmerman’s claim that he had to defend himself when the young black teenager lost his mind and used a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea to attack the man holding a pistol. The police wrapped their investigation up in a record seven hours and some change.
In response to the authorities’ rush to acquittal, the family of Trayvon Martin started asking questions, and the answers that were given simply didn’t add up. It wasn’t until the recordings from Mr. Zimmerman’s calls to the emergency operators were made public weeks later did we become fully aware of the travesty of this injustice. And the authorities in Florida continued to drag their feet and dismiss any call to reopen the investigation or to bring charges against Mr. Zimmerman. Recognizing a possible case of racial disparity, protests led primarily by the black community erupted in Sanford, in Florida, throughout the country, and around the world.
In response to the protest, supporters of Mr. Zimmerman accused the black community of its own special brand of racism. Black people were only using the death of Trayvon Martin as an excuse to inject racism into a case that has nothing to do with race. But it is hard to accept that preposterous contention given America’s history of racism in matters of law. When was the last time a black man was allowed to go home with his murder weapon after he told police that he had just killed someone? Long before Mr. Zimmerman picked up his cell phone to report a black suspicious character walking down the street this case oozed with racism.
Six weeks after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, the police in Tulsa, Oklahoma nabbed two white men suspected of killing five black men. This appears to be another obvious case of white on black crime. Except that this white on black crime isn’t being augmented by the criminal collaboration of the authorities trying to aid the perpetrator by claiming there isn’t enough evidence to charge anybody with anything.
The people in Tulsa obviously recognize a crime when they see one. And people in the black community recognize justice being done and when it is not. Even though some really sick and hateful white people went on a rampage to kill black people, the black community is more than willing to let justice do its thing. We may not like the result, but that’s part of the risk of our legal system and justice system. Even though it clearly favors white people with its heavy hand against black people, we have no choice but to go along for this racially disparate ride. We accept that.
But when people who are trusted to uphold the law, when our authorities actively do their best to keep the wheels of justice from working, when people in the black community see a return to the days when people who are charged to protect us would look the other way while black people are being murdered right before our eyes, everyone with a reasonable sense of fairness, law, and order should be concerned and demand that justice be given a fair shot to set things right. It’s not a black and white thing. It’s a right and wrong thing.