Crazy Faith Ministries
Last week on Wednesday, a White 51-year-old man, Gregory Bush, shot and killed two Black people at a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky.
Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones died horrific deaths. According to reports, Stallard, 69, was shot inside the store in the back of the head and was shot more times once he was down. Jones, who was in the parking lot, was also shot in the head.
Another White man in the parking lot saw what was going on and drew his gun. The two White men exchanged fire but missed each other.
Bush reportedly said to his challenger, “Whites don’t shoot Whites,” and fled the scene.
He was later arrested and taken into custody. Bush had tried to enter a Black church moments before he wound up at the Kroger. He was on a mission to kill Black people, wherever he could and he succeeded, and he is now sitting comfortably in a jail cell.
As Bush was being arrested, the country was held in suspense as reports continued of bombs being sent to political figures who have been critical of the president, and who have been attacked because of that criticism.
When the bomber, Cesar Sayoc, was identified, he, too, was arrested, taken into custody. Sayoc’s actions terrorized individuals and communities, but once he was identified, he, too, was taken down alive.
And then there was Saturday, when a crazed White man entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing – at the time of this writing – 11 people, and injuring at least 6 others. And yet this man, Robert Bowers, was taken down alive.
It is good that the perpetrators of these crimes are alive and will have to face the consequences of their actions, but it is noticeable that when Whites commit crimes, they are often taken alive, while Blacks end up dead at the hands of law enforcement – many of whom are only suspected of having committed a crime, usually an offense does not even close to being a mass murder or attempted mass murder.
The situation that regularly comes to my mind is that of Dylann Roof, the young White man who shot and killed nine people in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He got away and was pursued, but I was stunned as I read that after he was arrested, police officers took him to a Burger King to get something to eat before he was taken into custody and processed.
He was a known mass murderer. He had killed nine people. But he was taken down alive.
There are many emotions that the events of last week have stirred up for many people, but this double standard with which law enforcement officers attend to White and Black would-be suspects is deeply disturbing.
When a perpetrator is Black, law enforcement tends to shoot first and ask questions later, but when the perpetrator is White, law enforcement officers appear to be able to take them into custody alive.
This truth speaks to the Afrophobia which exists in this society and in this world. Black, Brown or dark skin triggers too many White law enforcement officers to want to take them out rather than take them down.
The assumption that seems to drive too many White law enforcement officers is that if a person is Black, he or she is automatically guilty and dangerous and worthy of being taken out. Society seems to agree, because the situation is not getting better, but, in fact, it is getting worse.
White perpetrators seem to believe that they will not be killed for their crimes, and many feel they will not be arrested – a belief they carry because too often in history, Whites have in fact been able to escape punishment for their crimes.
After 17-year-old Jordan Davis was shot and killed by Michael Dunn in 2012, because Dunn thought the Black teens in a car next to his in a convenience store parking lot were playing their music too loud. Dunn drove off and went to a hotel with his girlfriend, where they ordered pizza.
He was apprehended and arrested – but again keeping his life – and was surprised that at a second trial he was actually convicted and sentenced for murdering David.
The narrative in this country is that Black people are bad, and that if they are shot and killed by police officers then they surely deserved it. As the events unfolded last week, it was noticeable that the perpetrators all kept their lives, in spite of the heinous things they had done.
Had they been people of color, the outcome would most probably have been far different. It is hard to swallow that thought, but it is a reality that Black people do not fare well with law enforcement, whether they are guilty of a crime or not.
It is good that Bush, Sayoc and Bowers were apprehended. It is good that they will face justice for what they have done.
It would be good if that kind of police work was the norm, and if more Black people had the testimony of having received justice and not been summarily executed without a trial because they were assumed to have been guilty, bad, and deserving of extrajudicial justice – which is injustice at its best and at its worst.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.