The killing that has most affected me, a Black man, wasn’t the brutal execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
It happened in 2014, in Euharlee, Georgia. A police officer shot and killed Christopher Roupe, a 17-year-old white child, in his own home while he was holding a Wiimote video game controller. The police claimed he had a gun.
After an initial grand jury called for charges against the police officer, the case was handed to a second grand jury that let Corporal Beth Gatny off the hook.
That one has stayed with me because I was in JROTC as well, and I was (and remain) a huge gamer. It has stayed with me because police stormed my home when I was a child to serve a warrant on my father, and I was probably playing video games at that moment, too. Yes, Floyd was Black like me, but this kid was doing the exact same things I was doing at 17. Shot in his own home.
So I was quite surprised when I heard what Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Georgia, had to say about police brutality in his home state. In a recent appearance, he said, “Growing up as a white man in Georgia, I have never known what it means to fear I can lose my life, or face false accusation, or a miscarriage of justice just because of who I am.”
Are you sure about that Jon?
I wrote about police brutality as an African American problem earlier this year, and I think that was the wrong approach. Focusing on the “disproportionate impact” aspect of police brutality sends the signal that this is only a problem for Black people, not everyone. That makes it much more difficult to solve the police brutality issue that actually does affect everyone.
Think about what “disproportionate impact” means. It refers to the number of Black people killed by the police in relation to our overall population. But in real numbers, more white people are killed by police than anyone else. Statista reports that, as of November 24th, 370 white people have been shot by police this year. That’s more than all other racial groups COMBINED.
Even the summer protests against police brutality prominently featured brutality being committed against white people. Who can forget the image of 75-year-old Martin Gugino being pushed over by the Buffalo Police? Not to mention the death of Michael Reinoehl at the hands of federal agents in Lacey, Washington.
Police brutality is everyone’s problem. We need broad coalitions and people power to rein in police forces that are almost completely untouchable. If you think that’s an overstatement, I want you to actually read the article linked in the first paragraph. They convened a second grand jury to ensure a cop would not face any consequences for killing a child. A white child. A child that was just like me.
Jamil Ragland writes and lives in East Hartford. You can read more of his writing at www.nutmeggerdaily.com.
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