We all have morning rituals — wash our face, brush our teeth, make breakfast, check social media, walk the dog — and like everyone else I do all of those things, except the latter. I don’t have a dog; in place of that step in the routine I look for a name.
I’m not looking for a specific name, but rather one with specific traits. A non-PC way to say that would be I look for a name that sounds black on that short list of trending topics on my Twitter feed. When one’s not there, I breathe a sigh of relief, but only for a moment. More often than not one is there, and I have to decide whether I want to put myself through the emotional trauma of reading about another black man whose been slain by forces with badges or spare my mind just for a little while, pretending that ignoring the story eases the burden.
This morning that name was Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old Charlotte black man, who was shot dead by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Brentley Vinson, also Black, while officers were searching for a wanted person. Scott was not the person authorities were looking for and yet he was killed exiting his car. Witnesses say he was not only unarmed, he had a disability. But none of that mattered.
Monday afternoon the name was Terence Crutcher, the 40-year-old unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was shot and killed by police while waiting for help on the side of the road when his SUV broke down. Last week it was Tyre King, the 13-year-old Columbus, Ohio, boy murdered for playing with a BB gun — yes, that’s right the second coming of Tamir Rice.
Two months ago, it was Charles Kinsey, the unicorn survivor in these times of terror when most black men shot by police are shot to kill. But just two weeks prior to that incident in Miami, Florida, we were hit with the killings of Delrawn Small, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castille all in the same week. You can see from just this brief glimpse into Summer 2016 while my morning ritual, although sad, is practical.
Police brutality — to put it lightly — has now come to be expected every day. It’s to the point where every new story, although equally enraging, becomes less shocking. I knew it would happen. Again. And while the specifics may change, the same factors continue to be at play: unarmed black man; armed, overzealous cop; death; no consequences; repeat.
And yet, only 40% of white youth see these incidents as part of a larger problem — even reading that only 72% of African Americans see these crimes as such makes me wonder what reality the other 28% are living in. Clearly their morning routine differs from mine. Perhaps they block out the news because the stories are unbearable and so they don’t realize how “black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.” That’s why these stories have become not just a monthly or weekly occurrence, but a near daily one. It’s why I can’t stop expecting to see a new name when I wake up.