‘Whose Streets?’ pushes back on what we think we know about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri New documentary is a potent combination of social and media criticism

Deep into Whose Streets?, the new documentary about Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown, there’s footage of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Brown, giving an interview to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you,” Wilson tells him. At the screening I attended, there was an audible mix of gasps and laughter from the audience.

Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis spent much of the film’s run time up to that point establishing just how much racism lurked within the Ferguson Police Department and the city government. A 2015 report from the Justice Department established that Ferguson provided about as clear an illustration of institutionalized racism as could possibly exist: The city not only targeted black residents for tickets and arrests they couldn’t afford, it was also using the revenue from such stops to fund the nearly all-white police force. The court clerk, police captain and police sergeant were all implicated in sending and receiving racist emails, including one that compared President Barack Obama to a monkey.

Protester Brittany Ferrell hoists a bullhorn as her daughter hugs her in a scene from ‘Whose Streets?’

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

And yet here was Wilson telling a national television audience that racism was anathema to policing.

Whose Streets? arrives in theaters Aug. 11, marking the third anniversary of Brown’s death (Aug. 9, 2014) and the uprisings that followed it. It’s a deeply moving work, and the passion of both the filmmakers and their subjects is palpable. “FYI I was literally homeless throughout the first year of production. Worked as a canvasser and put money back into the film,” Folayan, an activist, theater geek and former advocate for prisoners at Rikers Island, tweeted recently. Davis is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is currently featured in the permanent collection at the Blacksonian (aka, the National Museum of African American History and Culture).

The focus of Whose Streets? is the residents of Ferguson and St. Louis who keep marching and screaming for justice till they’re hoarse, who keep agitating long after the national media has turned its attention elsewhere. It establishes the movement for black lives in Ferguson as one driven by young people such as rapper Tef Poe, who are fed up with being targeted by police, and others like organizer Brittany Ferrell and her partner, Alexis Templeton, as well as Copwatch recruiter David Whitt, who want better for their children.

Whose Streets? is likely to serve as a counterweight to Detroit, the new Kathryn Bigelow film about the 1967 Detroit riots and the police murder of three unarmed black people at the Algiers Hotel. It’s not necessarily fair to compare narrative films like Detroit to documentaries, but there’s a similarity in the dynamic between the two that existed with Nina and What Happened, Miss Simone? Both Whose Streets? and What Happened, Miss Simone? end up correcting, or at least augmenting, the record of ahistorical narrative films that struggle with details in which race is central.

Nina made the mistake of casting Zoe Saldana as Simone, then putting her in makeup to darken her skin and prosthetics to make her facial features more closely resemble Simone’s. Detroit fails to imbue its characters with any depth or humanity and devolves into a slog of racist white police officers terrorizing a group of people in the Algiers.

Bigelow’s herky-jerky camerawork and editing in Detroit deliberately create a sense of chaos. Whose Streets?, by contrast, presents real footage of Ferguson buildings in flames after Brown’s death, but the overall effect is far more nuanced. It’s much easier to get a sense of what happened in Ferguson as pockets of violence and property damage pockmarked peaceful, if emotional, protests. Whose Streets? refuses to equate property damage with the loss of human life.

Folayan and Davis offer a potent work of media criticism too. Folayan and Davis communicate just how much cable news, by repeatedly and selectively broadcasting the most violent, hectic footage, was responsible for making Ferguson seem like a war zone whose residents were animalistic and out of control. That narrative was furthered by a distant, largely white media corps accepting police reports as gospel. Whose Streets? challenges that by juxtaposing footage of Ferrell and her cohorts protesting to shut down a highway in Missouri with the official police account of what happened, in which the arresting officer accused Ferrell of yelling out “tribal chants.”

For a moment, we also see what it means to send black journalists into a situation like Ferguson, where police in tanks and armored vehicles are shooting rubber bullets, smoke grenades and tear gas (a chemical agent that the Geneva Convention prohibits in warfare) at the city’s black residents. There’s a clip of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs walking through Ferguson at night with his hands above his head as police bark orders at black protesters. The police draw no distinction. He’s black, so he might as well be one of them.

Brittany Ferrell leads a line of protesters as they face off with police in ‘Whose Streets?’

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The film gives voice to a community that’s reeling, mournful and frustrated. It has little faith in a government that’s failed it repeatedly. Spliced with footage of white public officials delivering statements that are often canned and worded to avoid legal liability, Whose Streets? brings the idea of two Americas, and two wholly different realities, to life. “Question normal,” it demands of its audience.

Despite the gravity of its subject matter, Whose Streets? has moments of dark levity. One interview follows a clip of President Obama giving a statement about Brown in his trademark style of measured reason.

“I’m waiting on me to have a black president. I still ain’t had me one,” a Ferguson resident named Tory says. “Wasn’t he a constitutional professor? Ain’t no constitution in Ferguson. Tell that n—- he need to teach a new class or bring his a– to Ferguson … and figure out why we ain’t got no constitution.”

Whose Streets? is understandably close in spirit to The Hate U Give, the best-selling young adult novel by Angie Thomas published earlier this year. The Hate U Give is told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is the sole witness as her unarmed best friend is shot and killed by a white police officer. The book, which is heavily influenced by Ferguson, is slated for a film adaptation starring Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby and Lamar Johnson. It’s early days yet, but I suspect that the film version of The Hate U Give and Whose Streets? will serve as cinematic bookends to understanding what black people went through in Ferguson before and after Brown’s death.

The documentary ends on a hopeful note, but no one in Whose Streets? is a Pollyanna, least of all Ferrell. She’s open about the fact that she’s taking prescription medication to treat anxiety and says she’s not sure the justice she and her partner are seeking will come in their lifetimes. They’re counting on another generation of troublemakers and revolutionaries to carry on. They’re raising one in their elementary-school-aged daughter McKenzie, seen in the film with her mothers leading a crowd and screaming as loud as she can, “WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS!”

Ex-police chief Dave Brown recalls shootings of Dallas police officers following Black Live Matters event in his new book ‘Called To Rise’ He was credited with bringing peace after the ambush last July 7

DALLAS – The events of July 7, 2016, will forever haunt former Dallas police chief David Brown.

That was the day Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and killed four policemen with the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and one policeman with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system following a peaceful Black Lives Matter (BLM) event in downtown Dallas. Brown was in his sixth year as Dallas’ police chief at the time, and the tragedy not only unsettled his city, but also a nation.

Several incidents across the nation where white police officers killed unarmed African-American citizens was the impetus for the BLM protest. But no one could predict what was about to occur in Dallas.

“It was very peaceful, people were taking selfies with our officers,” Brown said, referring to the protest. “We had worked very hard in the community to have strong relationships here in Dallas.

“We were all obviously concerned, but the mood of the crowd was so positive. And then towards the end is when the first shots rang out.”

Those shots, from Johnson, sent the crowd running for cover.

“I get a call after leaving work at 9 p.m. — the protest was scheduled to end at 9 p.m. — and people were leaving,” Brown said. “Then they decided to march through the streets, which was unplanned.

“I get the call that one officer is down, then I get multiple calls of multiple people shot and a gunman – maybe multiple gunmen – shooting from different positions. The first reaction was obviously the concern for the officers that they would make it, and their families, and then next was trying to capture this guy, trying to figure out where this person was.”

Johnson managed to run and hide in a small room on the second floor of nearby El Centro College. And following almost four hours of ill-fated negotiations while trying to get Johnson to turn himself in, Brown made the controversial decision to send an armed robot into the building with the sole purpose of killing the gunman.

The strategy worked, although many criticized Brown for using the rare tactic.

“It’s only controversial to people that weren’t getting shot at,” Brown said. “It’s not controversial to the people who lost their husband, lost their son or lost their father. It’s not controversial to those folks.

“But I understand people obviously concerned with weaponizing an armed robot, because it had never been done in American policing history. But this person was negotiated with for over 3 1/2 hours before we came to that conclusion, and during the negotiations he expressed that he wanted to kill more officers and expressed throughout negotiations that he was really excited about having already killed officers.”

Besides the five police officers killed, nine more were wounded, and two civilians were also injured.

Approaching the one-year anniversary of one of Dallas’ darkest hours, Brown believes that most police officers are good, honest men and women who are trying to do their jobs and go home safely to their families at the end of the day.

“I’m obviously African-American, I hate being stereotyped, I hate the fact that a black person can do something in this country and all blacks are stereotyped as being criminals,” Brown said. “But all of my adult life I’ve been a police officer, so I’m blue, and that stereotyping for police officers is just as bad as stereotyping in the African-American community.

“Just the fact that you will take the example of a cop that obviously didn’t do things the right way, used excessive force, used deadly force when it wasn’t called for, and then every cop is bad or out of control or racist is wrong. Just as wrong as someone following me in a department store because I’m black, thinking I’m going to steal something. That’s wrong.

“We ought to be able to have people be looked at on their own merits on an individual basis, is what we all want. People in the black community want that and people in the blue community want that, and it’s only right and fair.”

Brown, who spent 33 years with DPD before retiring last fall, has since written a book about his life named Called To Rise. It includes personal stories, including Father’s Day of 2010 when his son – who suffered from a bipolar disorder – shot and killed a police officer in a suburb of Dallas, and was subsequently shot and killed by a responding police officer.

Born and raised in a tough area of Dallas called South Oak Cliff, Brown believes he was born to handle a crisis like the one that nearly brought Dallas to its knees last year. His candor – plus the way he calmed the fears of those in his community and across the nation – during interviews in the aftermath of the shootings, was well-received nationally.

Brown points to his strong Christian faith, along with the community he grew up in, for helping him get through the biggest challenge of his career in law enforcement.

“It’s a strong-willed mother, a community that nurtured me, the public school system nurtured me, early childhood education – pre-K – had a big part of my life, and I just never forgot where I came from and I felt like I owed people,” Brown said. “But the most important part is my faith, the fact that I’m a Christian and I’m not ashamed to profess it has an integral part in how I make decisions, good or bad.

“I’m nowhere near perfect at all, I know that. But I believe in God’s grace and I apply that as much as I can in all aspects of my life, including professional.”

All of that was put to a stern test last year.

Lifesaving advice from a black woman held at gunpoint by police Comply, survive and complain later because panicky cops don’t know how to de-escalate situations

It’s still hard for me to believe that last month I almost became a hashtag — another black person gunned down by a panicky cop.

I don’t have a criminal record.

I shop at Trader Joe’s.

I’m college-educated.

I’m a woman.

As I stared at the officer nervously pointing his gun at me, I realized immediately what he saw: a black person who had no business being in his neighbor’s driveway.

Wait, let me take you back to the beginning:

On April 28, I bought a 2005 Isuzu Ascender from a woman in Jefferson City, Tennessee. I was on my way home to Charlotte, North Carolina, from Nashville, Tennessee, and I found the SUV on Craigslist. I had been searching for the perfect SUV for more than a month. This had a female owner who followed the maintenance schedule, relatively low miles, leather interior, tow package, roof rack and even a sunroof. The Ascender was the one. I bought it on the spot.

I left with both sets of keys, the title and a bill of sale, which she signed. Over the next couple of days, we talked a couple of times as I confirmed my pickup date of May 3. That’s how I found myself at the end of her son-in-law’s gun. I drove a rental car to Morristown, Tennessee, and took an unmarked taxi to the woman’s house about 3 p.m. I talked to her the day before. The Ascender was parked in the same spot in her driveway as it was the previous week when I purchased it. Her newer Toyota 4Runner was parked beside it.

The cab dropped me off and sped away. We’d gotten lost along the way, and he was irritated. I was tired but excited. The sun was shining, and the area around me was beautiful with lush trees and rolling hills. I soaked in the scenery.

I retrieved my North Carolina license plate and a small screwdriver from my duffel bag. As I screwed in the plate, I heard a voice behind me: “I’m an off-duty Knoxville police officer.” Something told me to stand up slowly with my hands up. I turned, facing the direction of the voice. He’s pointing his gun at me. My heart races. I look around. There is no one else outside. My mind is racing. I chide myself for not giving the address to anyone. No one knows where I am. I lament not answering the phone a minute ago when it rang. I am completely alone. My phone is next to my bag. I don’t think I should move.


It’s so quiet. Philando Castile flashes through my mind. I think about how cops are killing black people and getting away with it. I bought the SUV last Friday, I tell him, being mindful not to raise my voice. He doesn’t lower his gun. He tells me he is the seller’s son-in-law, and he lives across the street. He saw me get out of a car that sped away. It was a taxi, I explain. He’s incredulous. The registration and bill of sale are in my duffel bag. I tell him the keys are in my pocket. He tells me not to move. He orders me to put down the small screwdriver that I’m sweatily holding in the air. I ask if I can lower my hands. He says yes. Even though, to this point, he’s still pointing his gun at me as he talks to the 911 dispatcher.

He tells the dispatcher that I’m trying to steal his mother-in-law’s SUV. He gives her the tag number. The dispatcher tells him that the tag matches the truck. He, apparently, doesn’t hear her because he keeps pointing the gun at me. He finishes the call and holsters his gun. I exhale and lean against the truck. He tells me to sit on the step beside the house. Again, I invite him to check the registration in my bag. I share various details about his mother-in-law. He tells me he knew she was selling the car, but she hadn’t told him she’d sold it.

Seven minutes later, a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy arrives. The cop tells his side of the story. I tell the deputy I have the registration in my bag. He doesn’t check it, nor did he run the plates. I offer him the signed bill of sale and keys. Not good enough. He wants to talk to the woman who sold me the car. She wasn’t home and wasn’t answering her cell.

We’ve been over this already. Again, I tell the deputy that the registration is in my bag, and it matches the VIN on the car. Or that he can simply run the plates. He asks for the title. I don’t have the title — I have the registration. He asks if I have the phone number of the woman who sold me the car. I read to him from my phone. He compares it to the number on the bill of sale. It matches. I’m wondering, to myself, what that exercise just proved — but I remain calm.

He still doesn’t run the plate. Since I was allowed to pick up my phone, I text a friend: “Cops here. They don’t believe I bought the car. Gonna call. Just stay on the line …” Finally, the off-duty cop gets his wife on the phone. She confirms the car was sold to someone in North Carolina. They let me go with a weak apology, and the typical, “There’ve been a lot of burglaries in the area.”

Former Observer writer Tonya Jameson shows how she was screwing her new license plate into her new Isuzu SUV purchased in Jefferson City TN., shown here, before having a gun pulled on her by a Knoxville Police Department officer. “It’s been a week since I almost became a hashtag – another unarmed Black person shot by a cop,” she wrote.

Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer

Initially, I was just glad to be alive — but after blogging about it, I realized that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t just about me — this was an opportunity to prevent the next Philando Castile. I filed a complaint with the Knoxville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit against Officer Matthew Janish, the off-duty cop who drew his gun on me. I complain to Jefferson County Sheriff G.W. “Bud” McCoig about how his deputy handled the call.

McCoig said his deputy acted appropriately despite not running my tag or looking at the registration. McCoig also said his deputy denied that I told him I had the registration. Since the deputy only stayed for 11 minutes, McCoig didn’t think it was a big deal. I explain to McCoig that after one cop pulls a gun on you, and then the other officer won’t follow common sense and run the plate, but instead interrogates you, 11 minutes is an eternity. I told him his officer created an even more threatening encounter for me. McCoig was unsympathetic and concluded the conversation with, “I’m glad everything worked out, and as far as I’m concerned this is closed.”

Knoxville Police were a little more sympathetic. Chief David Rausch actually came to Charlotte a little more than a month later to tell me the internal affairs investigation concluded that officer Janish’s actions were “lawful and proper.”

The system is designed to exonerate police officers, not provide justice for their victims, especially black ones. He said that he felt it was important to tell me results in person and answer any questions that I might have.

I told him that I wasn’t surprised by their findings, but I was disappointed. The system is designed to exonerate police officers, not provide justice for their victims, especially black ones. My incident, however, gives me new insight into just how much the law values police lives over the citizens they are supposed to protect.

Chief Rausch revealed that Janish thought I was a teenage boy. Considering that I have a low-fade haircut and was wearing khaki-style shorts and a “Free Press” T-shirt, I wasn’t surprised. I tell the chief that although I am not a teenage boy, his officer shouldn’t assume that all teenage boys are criminals.

The chief told me when doing these types of investigations, it is essential to understand an officer’s mindset to determine the facts. Here are the facts that Janish focused on: unmarked, speeding cab; black person; duffel bag; and the license plate. Here are facts he ignored: He knew his mother-in-law was selling the SUV, it was broad daylight, and I knew her first name but not her last. I offered to show him the keys, registration and bill of sale signed by her.

Those are the actual facts. Janish’s mindset was the scenario he created in his head.

He saw a black person, supposedly a teenage boy, and assumed the worst: that I was either a burglar or a car thief. His fears weren’t facts.

The moment I arrived on that street I became a suspect, and under the law, it seemed that Janish became a victim. He could have stayed at his house, called 911 and waited for sheriff’s deputies to arrive. Instead, he grabbed his weapon and came outside to confront me.

Every action I took was suspicious in his mind. Looking to the left and right twice was deemed suspicious. Not knocking on the door was also suspicious, but I suspect knocking would’ve been suspicious, too.

Reading the investigation case file, Janish likely would have been within his legal rights to shoot me. I was amazed at the scenario he created about the taxi — it was a lookout vehicle lurking nearby.

In a statement supporting the investigation’s findings, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero talked about the extensive training officers receive in appropriate use of force and de-escalation.

Is the fact that Janish didn’t shoot me considered de-escalation? Why is pointing a weapon at a law-abiding citizen considered an appropriate use of force? Why doesn’t police training include exercising common sense?

Who steals a car by putting a license plate on it first? Who steals a 12-year-old Isuzu Ascender instead of the newer Toyota 4Runner parked beside it? What car thief offers the amount of proof that I did?

I understand Janish’s vantage point, that the situation looked strange from his house. He was well within his right to investigate; any good neighbor would do that. But this situation warranted some common-sense questions: “Who are you?” “What are you doing?” The inquiry should come first, instead of a gun. That’s de-escalation.

During his Charlotte visit, Rausch talked about lessons learned. I didn’t overreact. I didn’t get angry. I survived.

My behavior is how everyone should act in those situations: comply, survive and complain later. I told him it’s not natural to be accused of doing something wrong and not prove your innocence. I wanted to show the keys, the vehicle registration and the bill of sale. I fought every impulse to do anything that would make him feel more threatened.

I don’t have de-escalation training. I’m the one being held at gunpoint. I’m the one thinking my life could end if he panics. Yet, I’m the one who must remain calm. The legal system is asking untrained civilians to de-escalate panicky cops.

What about our lives? We’re tired of becoming hashtags. We’re the ones the police are supposed to protect. Our lives matter, too.

Tonya Jameson is a former Charlotte Observer reporter and columnist who now manages social media accounts for companies.

Daily Dose: 6/22/17 Milwaukee is the latest city to protest the verdict in a police shooting

I’m back from New York, and it was a whirlwind week. I did my best to create a complete radio show for the podcast, so I hope you like it. The whole thing has been a work in progress, but I think we’re getting closer to what we want.

It feels like every day of summer is going to deliver another terrible verdict. This time it comes from Milwaukee, where an officer killed a man after a chase. The victim in this case appeared to have gotten rid of a firearm during the pursuit, which was a critical point for the verdict in the end. It might be worth noting that the officer was black, but that doesn’t change the fact that another man lost his life at the hands of law enforcement, which is such a troubling trend that it’s hard to keep up. There will be protests in Wisconsin today, for sure.

We now have a new proposed health care bill. Nobody’s seen it, few lawmakers have any idea what it actually is, but Senate Republicans drafted it behind closed doors and refused to reveal any details about it until it was time to vote. As far as legislative shenanigans go, this definitely qualifies as doing the most. Democrats have been going all over the country asking constituents what they think of repealing the Affordable Care Act, but no one knows what’s in it. Now, we have what they’re calling a “discussion draft,” which is rather underwhelming.

The doctor’s office is stressful. There’s just no way around that. Whether it’s the wait time, the paperwork, the cost or the obvious situation of learning about one’s health, in general it causes major anxiety. So if you walk into a medical facility with a strong bent of racism on your mind, things are not going to go well. That’s exactly what happened in Canada recently when a woman decided she was going to start yelling at people in order for her kid to see a white physician. Then, she claimed she was being discriminated against. Can’t make this up.

Yasiel Puig is my favorite L.A. Dodgers player. He has been so ever since he joined the team and brought his Cuban flavor to the diamond, hotdogging and bat flipping his way all over the big leagues. Of course, because MLB is full of curmudgeons who don’t like fun, this was not well-received. This time, he upset the New York Mets because he took too long to get around the bags after a home run. Now, everyone’s saying he doesn’t have respect for the game, which is absurd. This charade from big leaguers only gets more annoying with each passing pitch. Get over it.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Speaking of baseball, some people go to incredible lengths to be able to play. For example, if you have only one hand, it’s not easy to do. But in the mold of Jim Abbott, the legendary one-handed pitcher who once threw a no-hitter, there’s a catcher doing the same thing. Check this kid out, he’s awesome.

Snack Time: George Clooney’s won the life lottery in so many ways. Aside from being exactly the type of guy whom Hollywood casts for everything, he apparently also just falls into money when he isn’t even trying. What a life.

Dessert: DeMario Jackson is back on Bachelor In Paradise. This franchise is totally out of control.

 

Daily Dose: 6/19/17 Another black person killed by police, this time in Seattle

The fight continues in Washington, D.C. And no, this one has nothing to do with President Donald Trump. On Monday, the Washington Redskins secured a small victory with a Supreme Court ruling that deemed the law preventing the team from registering trademarks with the word “Redskins”— or “offensive trademarks” — as unconstitutional. The controversial team name has been a topic of discussion for decades, but it intensified in May 2013 after team owner Dan Snyder staunchly vowed to never change it. Months later, President Barack Obama joined in, adding, “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.” A year later, the Trademark and Trial Appeal Board ordered the cancellation of the Washington Redskins’ six federal trademarks. Now, three years and several court appearances later, we’re here. Snyder is “thrilled,” according to reports, and team attorney Lisa Blatt praised the court’s decision. The team may have won the war, but something tells me this battle is far from over.

Oh, wait! There is Trump news. Within a few hours of releasing a statement acknowledging Juneteenth, the oldest and most well-known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States, the internet quickly drew comparisons between President Trump’s issued statement and former president Barack Obama’s — one focused more on freed slaves, while the other praised men who allowed slaves to be freed. As the statement continues to be debated, most social media users have moved on to criticizing the president’s silence after an overnight van attack in London that left one pedestrian dead and 10 others wounded.

Another day, another non-conviction. If you haven’t heard about the infuriating yet unsurprising acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile last July. The verdict prompted marches and calls to action across the country. Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor and registered gun owner, reached into his pocket to get his license. Fearing that Castile was retrieving a weapon, Yanez shot him multiple times and walks away a free man, as we’ve witnessed so many times before. The same song will continue: The national outrage, pain and frustration and personalized hashtags will roar, then quiet until the next unfortunate encounter.

Two days later, another police-involved shooting. A pregnant woman was fatally shot by two officers in front of several children in Seattle after reporting a burglary earlier that morning. According to police, 30-year-old Charleena Lyles displayed a knife before the two officers opened fire. Although the incident is still under investigation, family members told media outlets that Lyles had been suffering with mental health issues for the past year. The children inside the apartment at the time of the shooting were not injured.

Jay Z adds context to the recent 4:44 ads. We’ve all seen the mysterious salmon-colored background with the bold, black 4:44 displayed directly in the center. The ads, which simultaneously popped up in New York and Los Angeles and on several websites two weeks ago, sent social media sleuths into a frenzy. The only clue: the word “Tidal” in the coding that accompanied the ads. Many speculated it might be a new project from the proud papa of newborn twins, and others hoped it would be specifically about the twins.

Jay Z will be dropping a new album on June 30 as a result of a new partnership between Tidal and Sprint. In addition to the new music, the partnership will support the 1Million Project to help 1 million low-income high school students across the United States gain access to the internet. Free mobile devices and free high-speed wireless internet will be provided to participating students during their high school years.

It’s a win for all.

Tulsa officer acquitted in shooting death of unarmed black man Betty Shelby beats charges for killing Terence Crutcher in 2016

Another day, another police officer walks free after killing an unarmed black person.

You might remember the case of Terence Crutcher. Last year in Tulsa, he was killed by Officer Betty Shelby after a situation that unfolded outside of his car that was caught by police dash cameras as well as helicopter footage. It shows Crutcher, walking toward his car with police trailing him, guns pointed. Then, Crutcher’s arms come down and shots ring out, leaving him to lie there and die on the side of the road in Oklahoma. She was acquitted on Wednesday.

Where to begin. We’ll start with the trail, as the video shows you the details of the interaction. From there, let’s fast-forward to Shelby’s testimony, in which she states very plainly what the specific threat of police privilege and white supremacy means. Her fear was more important than her victim’s life. Beyond that admission, which was honest, she made an even more important statement about why, following her fear, she chose to shoot: That’s police policy.

“She articulated all of the reasons why she believed he was armed and why she took the action that she did that was in accordance with her training. In times of heavy stress and fear and uncomfortability, we revert to our training, and that’s what you want an officer to do. And you want them to handle situations the way they’re trained to handle them,” Jerad Lindsey, chairman of the Tulsa FOP, said earlier this week about Shelby’s testimony. “It takes tenths of seconds for someone to already make the mental decision to pull a weapon and shoot you.”

The last sentence is the most important. What it basically says is the very same logic that police use to justify their decision-making in firing rounds is exactly what’s used against you when you haven’t even done anything. You can talk about the inherent danger of police work and what it takes to protect a community, but the problem with the “blue lives matter” logic is two-fold. One, no one is born a police officer. Secondarily, because it is a job, there are certain risks that simply have to be a part of the accountability scale in order for the entire system to work, if you’re even going to consider fairness a part of the equation. If every encounter is going to be considered life or death, then the logic should apply both ways. Meaning, Crutcher might have thought they were going to try to kill him, too. Otherwise, what you’re openly admitting is: This isn’t fair and doesn’t have to be.

By leaving the judgment to human nature and throwing one’s hands up after that, you’re completely eliminating acknowledgment of the most obvious of factors here: race. Inherent bias, never mind outright racist attitudes and methods, are well-studied and documented components of law enforcement, but they are clearly the defining factor in many cases. To be noted, the window was up.

This man’s blackness obviously made her feel like he was more likely to kill her or her colleagues. And if you don’t believe that’s real, just listen to the officers on the audio of the footage of the shooting. “Time for Taser, I think,” one officer says in the lead-up to the gunshots. “That looks like a bad dude, too. Could be on something.” Seconds later, Crutcher is on the ground, his white T-shirt soaked in his blood.

The autopsy revealed that Crutcher did have PCP in his system. That in itself is not a reason for someone to die, of course. Not to mention that the casual observation of a random black man being a “bad dude” is a clear indicator about the kind of snap judgments people make based on appearance that have zero grounding in fact. Crutcher had previously served time for dealing cocaine and, according to his sister, had a drug problem as a user. Again, none of that should equal a death sentence, but even if you think so, how they figured all that out in those few minutes is beyond me.

Not to mention something else, perhaps the most critical element to the backdrop of everything. This is Tulsa. Not just the Tulsa where white residents burned down as many black businesses and neighborhoods as they could in the 1920s during a riot. (They’re making a movie about it.) It’s the same Tulsa where, in 2015, a guy working law enforcement literally for fun, who was a friend of the sheriff’s, shot and killed a guy because he mistook his handgun for his Taser. We’re not talking about ancient history. Never mind the fact that the guy is still bitter, saying that he’s mad he ever decided to give back to the community — not that, you know, he actually took someone’s life.

Mind you, the fallout from that was a reform program for that whole operation, but that’s not going to matter to Crutcher’s family. The point here is that the violence that takes the lives of so many unarmed black people isn’t just accidental or incidental, it’s state-sponsored.