Victimization of our young black males
TRAGICALLY, it has become a depressingly familiar pattern in New York, often in areas where Barbadians and other West Indians live.
A person of colour, usually a young male, is cut down by a police officer’s bullet.
The deadly tragedy is followed by vociferous demonstrations fuelled by a sense of community outrage.
Next are the demands for a speedy but thorough investigation. Then, there is the tearful farewell, a funeral service, during which the life of “our dearly departed” is celebrated at a local church, where pews are occupied by hundreds of mourners, among whom are elected representatives at the federal, state and local levels; community spokespersons; and religious leaders who wonder when the deaths at the hands of cops would end.
The final sad element in this pattern was played out the other day at Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church in the Bronx when Ramarley Graham, 18, a West Indian, was eulogized in prayers, tributes, music, poetry, and bible readings. He was killed in his own home by police officer Richard Haste, 30, after the youth had been approached on the street by the cops who followed him into the apartment building where he lived.
Ramarley closed the door behind him, but cops kicked it in without a search warrant authorizing the entry.
What made the death so egregious was that the young man, who had no criminal record, was shot in the presence of his grandmother, who was then taken to the police station and questioned for seven hours.
Rev. Al Sharpton, perhaps the country’s best known civil and human rights campaigner demanded “justice”. He told the mourners that Ramarley’s killing was “unjustified” and couldn’t be condoned or ignored by the community and the city.
According to the Police Department’s account, undercover cops believed Graham had a gun. They were sadly mistaken.
He was unarmed.
Congressman Eliot Engel, who has visited Barbados and many other Caribbean nations as a member of the House of Representatives’ Western Hemisphere sub-committee said: “This is something that should never have happened, and everyone must work to ensure that something like this never happens again. To barge into someone’s house and shoot a gun off first and then claim something went wrong is something that needs to be ameliorated.”
If a similar incident had occurred in Barbados, for instance, chances are the United States State Department would list it in its annual human rights report as evidence of the thuggish behaviour of Bajan police officers.
In the past four years almost one million young men in New York have been stopped and searched; 90 per cent of them are black or Hispanic and at least 90 per cent didn’t have a weapon and didn’t commit a crime. Thousands of Bajans, Jamaicans and others from the region have been stopped and searched while walking on the streets. That’s not right.