State-Sanctioned Violence Against Black Bodies During a Pandemic: A Horrid Chapter in American History

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Chattel slavery. Jim Crow. Segregation. Redlining. Sterilization/euthanizing of Black bodies. Mass incarceration. Income and education inequity. Economic disinvestment.

These are but a few systemic inequalities that have been levied on Black people throughout the course of our American existence. Even before America was officially America, Africans in America were the recipients of subhuman treatment by European settlers who escaped tyranny in their homeland to enact something much more horrid to our ancestors.

For every modicum of advancement Black folk see in America, it is countered by some form of dehumanization. Over the past decade, the conversation surrounding police violence against unarmed Black citizens have dominated headlines and ushered in a 21st-century civil rights movement that has specifically called for an increased valuation of Black lives.

We have seen advocacy transform into new legislation. We have seen a generation of activists march, jailed and even die in the name of railing against state-sanctioned violence. We have generated hashtags, spoken the names of the slain on the highest public platforms and called for justice until our voices have gone raw from shouting into an abyss.

The body count has not ceased.

The Police Shooting of Jonathan Price

Over the weekend, a Black man named Jonathan Price joined the list of Black Americans killed by American police under suspicious circumstances. The story that has been told thus far goes like this: Price witnessed a woman being assaulted at a gas station in Wolfe City, Texas, steps into intervene, police arrive and apparently views him as a threat. They tase him and then shoot him to death.

Price has been described as a hometown hero. A motivational speaker. A community advocate. An athlete. A trainer. He is now being described in past tense and we are once again saddled with more questions than answers and communal grief.

And what is especially jarring about his death, as was the death of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks and the paralyzing of Jacob Blake, is that we keep witnessing Black folks assassinated by American police during a time when public servants should be exercising maximum service. Current headlines are revolving around the super spread of COVID-19 in the White House, but the coronavirus has been a cruel crisis for Black folks for the past seven months.

You would think that the catastrophe brought on by a public health crisis would preoccupy law enforcement with other more pressing matters, but in order to arrive at that conclusion, you would have to suspend your disbelief of the function of American police.

There is no doubt in my mind that historians will look back on this period in American history and have to do a sufficient amount of fact checking to ensure there is no exaggeration in their retelling of it. The horrendous disregard for Black life and civil liberties feels like the 1920’s as opposed to 2020, but it is completely on brand with an exhausting American narrative.

About the Author

Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be.