America’s history of aggressive policing comes from centuries of ruin. In the mid-19th century, a time when America peaked in disenfranchisement of human rights and basic living necessities, white property owners ruled a twisted democracy wrought with infamy. Within these times there were three important factions that contributed to this unhinged society. The slave, the slave master and the slave catcher. The slave worked the land and built the economy. The master worked the slave. And when the slave, in wishful thinking ran for freedom, the slave catcher’s duties caught up to him. This was the first form of policing in the United States. Under the Fugitive Slave Law, a slave running away is the same thing as theft under the U.S. Constitution. A slave is not a person therefore, in an ironic twist, lacks the rights to flee or steal themselves. Policing as since evolved from this obvious constitutional flaw into a more covert system of oppression. The events that led to the brutality of Baltimore resident and U.S. citizen Freddie Gray, is an exact reflection of the timeline of policing in America. An all-too real Deja vu from a 19th century “democracy.” The death of Freddie Gray was not an isolated incident, which is made clear when the lines of this investigation are read in-between. It’s not that the police were lacking in their responsibilities, but on the contrary, acting upon the very principles of their orientation.
Let’s be clear, Freddie Gray’s tragic incident was much less a death as it was a murder. A news article put out by the Baltimore Sun in April 2015 titled The 45-Minute Mystery of Freddie Gray’s Death, enclosed a detailed timeline of the events. Unfortunately, there are still missing pieces from the investigation years later. A hot question begs why this even happened? Freddie Gray was seen hanging out on the corner of a neighborhood in West Baltimore when he briefly “locked eyes” with police officers. A man on the opposite side of the street yells out a warning call: “Ay yo, here comes Time Out.” Alarm ringing is one of the more common aspects of black life, dating far back in history. Other known epithets that notify surrounding areas that police approach include: 12, The Pigs, The Boys and of course 5-0. The reasoning behind these somewhat militant distress signals are as any minority will tell you, whenever the police come around it usually isn’t because they want to borrow some of Domino’s Pure Sugar Cane. Instantly, when Gray and the police glances met, he takes off running. This flight justified because of the infamous resumes and overt treatment of police within these communities. However, this instinctive behavior only serves as a dog whistle for the boys in blue who much to a metaphor of canine and feline relationships, fall in direct pursuit.
This pursuit ends in what we all know were the last days of Gray’s life as he is arrested with brute force and thrown into the back of a van and incurred a broken spine cord. He later slipped into a coma from his injuries and dies days later. The outcome of the officers? Suspended with pay while the trial is pending. And as of Sept. 12, 2017, The U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not be bringing up federal charges against the six Baltimore police officers. In short summary, they all got off free from conviction because there was not enough evidence to determine if they were responsible for the death of Freddie Gray.
That is the undeniably sad truth about being black in America. The severely rifted relationship between police and communities of color is no coincidence. Simply because that was never the way those two factions were designed. In a metamorphic cycle: the slave evolved into the Black American, who is still subject to the harshness of living in a society where the effects of slavery remain. The slave catching vigilantes morphed into the erratic, trigger happy, unapologetic machines that are seen presently in the media and on the streets. Doing more than writing citations and patrolling but acting as literal murder machines. And with little respect to checks and balances, serving as judge, jury and executioner. Freddie Gray may not have died during the mid-19th century, but certainly his chances of living did.
Calls for police reform fall quickly and silently on deaf ears. As does the requests for prison reform. In what some would call unreal, this style of living in frequent panic, distress, mistrust, fear and any other adjective you can think of is like something out of a John Carpenter film. The lens of government on persons of color is less a democracy and much more a dystopia. The roles that were written for the slave catcher were written because they were effective to the purpose of the law of the land and the motivations of the society. As for our 2019 Black History Month, with all the unlawfulness and injustice constantly perpetuated on black people, a “Time Out” seems indeed, wishful thinking.