Another week, another young Black man killed by police.
Last week, 25-year-old Jayland Walker was pulled over by police in Akron, Ohio for supposed traffic and other vehicle violations. He drove off with police in pursuit, eventually fled from his car, then ran on foot. Eight police officers proceeded to shoot and kill him, showering him with enough gunfire to wound him 60 times.
The death of Black people at the hands of law enforcement has become so commonplace and routine that many of us have become simultaneously outraged and psychologically numb. Over the past several years, we have morphed into front row spectators to grainy and, in some cases, graphic footage of police officers engaged in horrific levels of violent behavior toward people of color. Jayland Walker was just another casualty added to a far too long list of Black victims of such incidents.
After several days of intense protests roiling the city, Akron authorities released horrific body camera footage of the incident. Despite such horrifically disturbing and unsettling footage, Walker’s family asked citizens of the community to remain calm and engage in peaceful protests. Like Walker’s family, people in and out of Akron want to know why he endured such intense gunfire.
Predictably, certain segments of the conservative media wasted no time brazenly attacking Walker’s character. They falsely claimed he was a violent man and had a criminal record (he had one traffic ticket and no criminal record, according to The New York Times). Personal flaws aside (and we all have our shortcomings), it is probably safe to say he never fatally pumped 60 bullets into another human being while that person was in retreat. The entire situation is nothing short of abominable.
“Jayland was a private kid,” said Bobby DiCello, a lawyer for the Walker family. “He wasn’t married. He wasn’t a criminal. He obviously was in pain. He didn’t deserve to die.”
I also feel for the Walker family, who have been forced to endure vicious insults targeting their late son’s supposed “less than stellar” character, and justifications of his execution by police because he didn’t comply with their orders. Interestingly, those same critics tend to remain eerily silent when unhinged, sadistic white men routinely commit horrendous atrocities and participate in wanton acts of violence.
One has to answer whether the average white person would even be the victim of such random violence by police officers. According to the Washington Post, Black Americans account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.
If white people were routinely and randomly subjected to police violence at the rate of their Black neighbors, there would be calls for congressional demonstrations and cries of protests so loud it would be political suicide for any politician or police force to ignore.
Notably, almost two weeks later, we have yet to hear from officers involved in the incident. At a recent press conference, Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett said the officers who killed Walker “need to be held to account” but added, “I am reserving any sort of judgment until we hear from them.” The truth is that Jayland Walker was deprived of such a crucial opportunity.
Most police officers and law enforcement officials are decent, law-abiding human beings who manage to perform admirably doing a job that undeniably can be stressful. There also is a faction — one is too many — of those with badges who shamelessly abuse their power and have to be held accountable for their actions.
White denial, resistance and other factors notwithstanding, Black people are human beings and deserve to be treated with as much respect and dignity as any other group of people. These killings are modern day lynchings. Such sadistic behavior and wicked disregard for people of color cannot continue.
Copyright 2022 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate
Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.