I didn’t have the stomach to watch it twice. I only watched it the first time because I have an affinity for Cincinnati. It’s not my home, never was my home, but it was the nearest oasis to the mid-Ohio desert of my adolescence, and I almost went to UC to become an architect, too, and I would have, had they offered me more money.
It was the explosiveness of the officer’s terror that got me, still gets me, the purest I’ve ever seen the fear that drives all racism. It’s confounded me since I was a little kid, racism. They tell you it’s hate but it’s not, it’s fear, masked. Almost every story I write in which I imagine a character to be a certain race is about racism, to an extent. Since I was a little kid, honest. Because I wanted to be black. My heroes were not race-specific but there were as many black people as white, and theirs was a more fully embodied sort of heroism. White guys did things I wanted to do, black guys did too but they were also who I wanted to be. Jay Berson was a hell of a point guard for Ohio State, but Jimmy Jackson? It was like the basketball in his hands was incidental, he didn’t need it to win my admiration, just watching him move was enough. Billy Joel had the goofy sunken eyes and the toe-tapping songs, but even he seemed to acknowledge the piano was the real star. Stevie Wonder, though, with the heavy synthesizers and other like instruments that seemed merely to keep the beat, may as well have been backed by nothing but metronomes. It was his singing that mattered because he channeled himself, all of himself, through those vocal chords and put it out there with all the passion he could muster and if you liked it, if you didn’t, so what.
An older cousin was the first to shame me, I think I was in third grade, for liking what I called rap music, which was really Kris Kross, which was as much rap as a Kidz Bop cover of Macklemore. Because they were black, he made it clear. I don’t know if he used any slurs because I didn’t know what they were at the time. My musical tastes shifted as I grew up. I even bought a Metallica CD once. I don’t know where I’m going with this.
Point is, I never figured it out. Soon enough I adopted the easy liberal attitude that racism is hatred and hatred is bad, mm-kay, that we need to end racism. Which if it were simply passed-down prejudice, yes, we should end that, but it’s not. It’s not going to go away because it can’t go away because humans are born as infants and infants are all helpless little squalling turds who can’t feed themselves and assuming they make it to the age where they can ask for help in the procurement of food, these able-bodied food procurers are the ones they are going to learn to trust, not like knowingly but in their gut. And since most kids are raised by a biological parent or two, by the time self-awareness begins to solidify, mirrors and such, they will believe three things: 1) I can trust me, 2) I can trust my food-procurers (misguided as this maxim often turns out to be), enough even to do what they say just because they say it, and 3) my most trusted people in the world all look and sound and act remarkably similar.
You ever shaved your own head, then looked in a mirror? That uncanny sense of who is that person looking back at me from the place where I know my reflection should be, and is, that’s me but that’s not me? You get the urge in this moment to stick your tongue out at yourself, give yourself the finger? At the very least, give yourself a stern scowl? That’s mistrust, that’s natural, that’s where racism comes from. I think.
The prosecutors down in Cincinnati are screwed and they know it. They have to charge him with murder, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able convict on such a charge. It’s manslaughter, first degree, I say with some hesitation because I could only watch the video once. But it seemed to me that the gun was drawn and fired within a span of two seconds, max. I don’t think you can prove intent to kill based on a two-second thought process. Was it reckless endangerment of another man’s life to draw the gun in the first place? Absolutely. I could go on my gun rant here but I’ll save it for another time. Was it racially motivated, I say again, 100%, it was an inherent mistrust that led to the moment of terror that led him to shoot, and by my definition, that does make this another racist killing.
The body camera’s shaking prevents any significant visual reading on what happened after the moment this guy first felt the fear strike him. But I can’t file this into the Eric Garner murder category, and that certainly was a murder, along with Trayvon Martin, where the fear that breeds racism bleeds over into the rage portion of the killer’s mind and convinces him that this unfounded but natural distrust of those who don’t look like me is actually a punishable offense, and I am become the punisher.
But this guy. This campus cop. His reaction suggested to me a sudden, complete fear that personally I’ve felt only once, and I know if I’d had a gun in my hand that night during my own two-second realization, I would’ve fired into the dark. And if I would’ve killed the bastard I would’ve pled guilty to manslaughter, because I have a conscience, and even if my lawyers would’ve convinced me to go to trial, I would’ve still been convicted, because the guy who did to me what he did to me was white.
They would’ve never gotten me on murder, though, and they won’t get this dumbass, either.