Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, she had a story about another young black man who was shot and killed while in the custody of the police, this time in Louisiana, though it was from six months ago. Why so long ago? It's a story that an NBC investigative reporter, Hannah Rapleye, has been covering, and as you might imagine, things are not as simple as that first sentence.
Two young men were walking, when they were stopped by police for a pat down, suspects in a bar fight. One of them, Victor White, has marijuana in his pocket, was arrested and handcuffed. He was searched again, and a small amount of cocaine was found. He was taken to jail,and his friend was dismissed. Victor White was later found dead of gunshot wounds.
It gets worse.
The police report said the gunshots were in White's back, which police said were made by Mr. White himself, from a gun police say he had, despite two pat down. And despite him being handcuffed.
It gets worse.
When it came time for the coroner report, the story changed. Now, it was said that the gunshots were in his chest, not his back.
Hard as it may be to believe, the story gets even worse.
The coroner report was death by suicide. Yes, you read that right. Somehow, Victor White, with his hands cuffed, managed to get a gun despite having had two patdowns where an actual gun was either missed or just lying around in the back seat, and shot himself. In his chest. And the coroner rule it was a suicide.
And the story even gets worse still. Which doesn't really quite seem possible.
There were abrasions on Mr. White's face, which police said they didn't cause. And his friend says they weren't there when the two young men were stopped. And the coroner report -- which, again remember, was death by suicide, also says that residue from the gunshot wounds were not consistent with being made from close range.
But that's not the "even worse" part. It's that the police report shows no record of whether or not Victor White's hands were ever tested for residue from a gunshot, to see if he had fired a weapon. And his parents were only able to see their son from the neck up. And his body hasn't yet been released to them.
It may not shock you to learn that his parents -- his father is a minister -- question the police report.
Obviously, I have no evidence, proof or certainty about what happened with Victor White. All I have is a good faith guess. And I'm guessing that your guess is that, like me, events didn't happen like the police say.
The other day, I wrote here of a rant written on Facebook by actor Keven Sorbo, about the "animals" in Ferguson, Missouri, for which he later apologized, explaining he was referring only to the looting and vandalizing, and it was written "out of frustration for everything that was happening in the country."
While I have no doubt that Mr. Sorbo and others, especially those on the far right, are indeed frustrated by what they see on their television screens throughout the country, I can't even begin to understand the frustration by people who were born with black skin. It's not as if the unarmed shooting death by police of a surrendering Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, or the handcuffed shooting death of Victor White in police custody, or the shooting death of unarmed Trayvon Martin by a vigilante justified by a "stand your ground" law are each unique experiences. And the more stories that get reported show how not random, not the exception these shooting deaths seem to be. And these are just the few unarmed shooting death of blacks by police that we're hearing reported. And they don't even touch on the reality of being regularly stopped and suspected of crimes simply by virtue of having black skin, even when a black person is entering their own home in a neighborhood that might be considered "too nice."
This is not even remotely to say that the police do a bad job, or in some cases a criminal one. It is not to say that there is horrible and tragic violence within the black community itself, or what is the cause of that. This is not about the police, almost all of whom do a remarkable job under daily threat of their lives. This is not about guns, nor is it about vigilante racists. This is not even a paltry place to try and put race relations in perspective. It is only to say -- I can't even begin to understand the frustration by people who were born with black skin.
One doesn't have to look for root causes or point fingers or stand on a soap box to not sense the galling frustration that must be felt by people for whom all this isn't an occasional story that makes it on the TV news, but a daily occurrence of suspicion and awareness of death. As much "frustration" as the far right Kevin Sorbo's of the world feel at watching the news, I'm guessing it doesn't begin to come close to the anger that the black community feels at being the news and eternal suspect. At being unable to walk home unarmed and not known if you'll make it there safe, whoever it is that might shoot you -- a gang member, a stray bullet, a police officer or justified vigilante. That it is just anger or sadness or daily frustration they likely feel and not a societal explosion is, to me, stunning.
So, for all the "frustration" that the Tea Party and its fellow-heartbroken deeply-reactionary supporters feel about "what's going on in the country," it's a shame that their and Mr. Sorbo's frustration towards "looting and vandalism" doesn't at least extend to some sympathy about what's going on about people being shot in the street because they're wearing a sweatshirt over their black skin. Frustrated at seeing looting and vandalism? They should feel grateful in their heartless myopia that it's not far, far worse.
Here below is the full story from The Rachel Maddow Show.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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