BY SHARON MARTIN
What is a life worth? What is my life worth against someone else’s? When is the right time for fear to make our decisions for us?
Sometimes we are caught between competing desires, one for safety and the other for justice. This is personal for me. I want my son-in-law, a police officer, to come home to his family, my family, at the end of each shift. I want every suspect with whom he has contact to be innocent until proven guilty.
We no longer abide gangs of white men lynching black men. Today, someone would have paid for the death of Emmett Till. I hope. But too many brown people and poor people and damaged people are still denied justice, some of them simply out of a police officer’s fear.
Part of this has to be cultural bias.
Poet Sly Alley writes in We Are All Woodcarvers a tribute to First Nation’s artist, John T. Williams, who was shot as he crossed the street in Seattle carrying a piece of cedar and his carving knife.
At an art show here in Oklahoma I saw a friend hauled away by the police because a woman reported that she had seen him on America’s Most Wanted. A successful sculptor and potter, this artist is also a big black man with a head full of dreadlocks. He was forced to leave his booth and was taken downtown for questioning, suffering only fear and a loss of dignity. In a different city, on a different street, this, too, could have ended tragically.
We are innocent until proven guilty. Our Constitution is supposed to guarantee this. Even Dylann Roof, who shot nine people in a church in Charleston, who left a witness to his rampage, is assured due process.
Dylann Roof was taken alive to face justice.
So should Terence Crutcher have been.
If the law can’t grant justice to Mr. Crutcher, it won’t protect any of us. I grieve for his family. I grieve for Officer Shelby’s family. There are no winners here.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer