Steven Estrada is Counterpoint’s Guest Contributor for this discussion. Steven is a U.S. Army Veteran, with expertise in Special Operations throughout the Middle East. He currently attends Cal State University, where he is majoring in Sociology. Steven is set to be a recurring contributor to Counterpoint, due to his proven intellect and analytical abilities.
Stephon Clark, an unarmed father of two, was gunned down by agents of the state in his grandmother’s backyard. The released body camera footage presents his broken body, destroyed under the spotlight of the hovering helicopter above it. His blood, escaping from the twenty flesh torn wounds injudiciously implanted within his muscle and sinew, seeping silently into the soil. The police officers speak out of breath with adrenaline vaporing into every subsequent spoken syllable. The scene, visceral and thick with texture and sound and sadness.
The tragedy of the shooting, which by the time of this publication has likely been broken down into minute and maddening detail, is one that we as the American public are all too familiar with. The death of a black man, the assassination of his character and the release of his murderer amalgamate this uniquely if not gratuitously American horror story. Like many tales, the meaning and the motivations of the players involved are ultimately subject to the biases and prejudices of their consumer. What colors the discord between Blacks and those who perceive themselves to be White is better characterized, not by the failed policies that predate the violence but by the sociology of America’s response to it. For it is within the responses to these murders that the hypocrisy of those who consider themselves to be “fair and impartial” is harder to hide. The theoretical underpinnings of well intentioned yet gilded American mantras like “personal responsibility” and “justice” are juxtaposed with Stephon Clark’s dying, destroyed and unarmed body. If “Good intention is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream” (Coates) then Stephon Clark’s murder should be the alarm that ends your slumber.
The “fair and impartial” will seek to rationalize the injustice, to placate the radiating contradiction of America’s exceptionalism and Stephon Clark’s bullet ridden corpse. The responses that wish to hide the maliciousness of American law enforcement towards it black citizens vary in severity of tone yet concurrently all contain an underlying insidiousness; The black body is not equal.
When someone questions why Stephon Clark ran, they are implying that Stephon Clark was guilty of a crime, of any crime. And within this prism the shooting is justified. Because there can be no punishment too severe for a black man guilty of a crime, including the destruction of his life. No jury. No due process. The black body is not equal.
And when they find his mugshots, his photos with his fitted hat tilted too far to the side they will tell you he was dangerous. They will ask, “why didn’t he comply?” They won’t think of placing themselves in front of the barrel of an institution that has consistently brutalized their bodies. That reality is another world, separate and foreign. They won’t think to because the black body is not equal.
And when you protest in the street, they will call you looters. They will seek examples from within your midst that you will have to answer for, while declaring that police violence is the result of a “few bad apples.” The destruction of Stephon Clark’s body is nothing compared to the destruction of property because the black body is not equal.
They will support demagogues in office. They will forgo the American platitudes of equality and freedom in exchange for the inequity and imprisonment of a million
Stephon Clarks. They will support harsh penalties for crime. They will exalt a system that knowingly oppresses. They will call for “unity” without providing justice. They will do so because the black body is not equal.
Stephon Clark was probably a work in progress. There will be those who wish to slander his name, to cast the blame for his demise squarely on his own shoulders. I ask that you hold your law enforcement personnel to the same standards. I ask that you hold America to the same standards.