What Do You See?

Photo by Olu Famule on Unsplash

Several officers surrounded him. He was restrained, so he could neither fight back nor run. Still one officer swung. He raised his right hand and landed blow after blow in an apparent act of frustration. The other officers watched or continued to restrain the man as their colleague continued landing hook after hook to the man’s face and head.

The video, which had been recorded from several hundred feet away, didn’t allow me to see which department the officers were from, what race the victim was or whether or not anything was being said during the exchange.

As I read the comments and scanned various facebook pages, I found the victim’s sister and saw that he was indeed black. Moreover, his daughter was reportedly in the SUV next to him watching as all of this unfolded.

She saw her father robbed of his humanity by the people who should have procted him. I can’t imagine the terror she felt, or the humiliation her father felt. He had to know that no one was going to help him. The cops wouldn’t be reprimanded, and no one would care about a black guy on Indy’s east side getting roughed up in the name of keeping the peace.

I shared the video on my facebook page and was quickly met with the tired refrain of “don’t break the law and you won’t be in those situatons.” The heat rose through my chest, my jaw tightened and my twitter fingers prepared to fire off a cutting salvo when I paused for a moment to attend to my son. Thank God for children. Once I had a moment to begin breathing again, my frustration birthed curiosity and I wondered what other’s saw when they watched the same video.

Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash

I know that white privilege has a way of blinding people and keeping them from seeing uncomfortable truths, but rather than speculate about others, I’ll explain what I saw.

I saw a dad hoping he’d see his baby girl again. I saw a man wondering if he should lay down his dignity and take the beating or respond with a sense of self-preservation and fight back. I saw a human-being who was overpowered and helpless. And even before I knew what color his skin was, I saw my kinfolk caught in the struggle.

The struggle that bound our hands and feet as we were forced across the Atlantic. The struggle that riddled our bodies with bullets and clothed our necks with nooses when we got “out of line”. The struggle that redlined our neighborhoods, suspended our children from school, politicized our hair and dehumanized us day after day. The struggle that elected men like Donald J. Trump, Mitch McConnell and Todd Young all the while denouncing identity politics.

I saw someone that Jesus would’ve died for. Someone that Malcolm and Fred fought for. Someone that Rosa and Claudette sat for. Someone who was holy and human before anything else. He was a victim deserving protection.

That’s what I saw.

This story is not unique to this video. You can look at the footage of Muhlaysia Booker’s assault, the report of Atatiana Jefferson’s death or Andrew Johnson’s locs being cut off. Whenever you have chosen to or been forced to bear witness to racial violence, what have you seen? What may be blinding your vision?

P.S. For the record: police brutality is never, ever, ever appropriate or justified. Once someone is restrained and/or compliant, any act of violence against them is immoral, inhumane and illegal.