By JOHN E. WARREN
San Diego Voice & Viewpoint Newspaper
The Last Poets, the original rappers with a message and a purpose, said “It’s alright to die for a cause, but not just because.” Those words continue to have meaning for us today when it has been proven time and time again that being Black, or just a person of color, can lead to death when encountering police. The unwritten crime appears to be “Living While Black.” The only ones who appear to know that this is a crime, are the police. Let us remember that for an act to be considered a crime, it must first be a law enacted by some governing body.
Before we had laws enacted by legislative bodies, laws grew out of practice which became known as “Common Law.” This meant that if an act such as stealing a person’s horse occurred and the thief was caught and hung, the hanging of a person under such circumstances became an acceptable law long before laws were written. Well, it appears today that police have made it a “common law” practice to deal with Black men under what “they” have made a “common law” assumption, that it’s alright to beat, brutalize and murder Black men on contact. There are no such laws in any of the states that Black men and women have been murdered under. Yet, we see that the practice is almost universal, based on the location and number of fatal contact with police when “Living While Black.”
Just look at the list of those who have been in contact with police leading to trial and execution, all in one swift act. Most of us want to focus on George Floyd. But his murder at the hands of police came 30 years after the brutal beating of Rodney King. The difference is that King survived his beating and George Floyd did not.
Now we see that the murder of Black people by police is so deeply instilled in the culture of policing that the conduct is not limited to White police officers, but Black officers as well. But for people like Attorney Ben Crump, we wouldn’t have a record of these atrocities. Crump, has not only created a whole legal specialty in the area of “Wrongful Death,” he has also written a book, Open Season, that documents, by name and case, the individuals who have been victims of this unwritten law for more than a decade.
Dr. King once said we can legislate laws but not the hearts of men. Those of us on the endangered list of “Living While Black,” must engage in a collective effort to make “Dying While Black” as unacceptable as cancer. As a matter of fact, it’s a cancer we must all get concerned about before it happens to us. Dr. King also said, “Injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere.” We must all work to end “dying while Black,” whether it be from police or other wrongs against “all of us.”
Dr. John E. Warren is the publisher of San Diego Voice & Viewpoint Newspaper