The Summer of Ferguson has, if nothing else, provided White America with a mountain of evidence that black America really is being terrorized by police brutality, and this week, another bit of that evidence surfaced. Surveillance video obtained by DNAinfo New York shows the tail and of an August 29 foot pursuit between two NYPD officers and awesomely-named 16 year-old Kahreem Tribble. The kid seems to just run out of gas, and gives himself up, only to be assaulted and pistol-whipped by the cops who are chasing him:
Reports indicate they did not offer him a pamphlet, so that’s a relief.
Not that it matters in the context of this assault, but young Mr. Tribble was being pursued for the dastardly crime of marijuana possession, itself a racist charge in modern America. White marijuana use is about equal to black marijuana use (slightly higher overall, actually), yet black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for it. Opponents of the War on Drugs point to marijuana possession as a victimless, non-violent crime , but in this case, it was violent, and the victim was Kahreem Tribble.
The cops are facing a grand jury over the incident, but if the Summer of Ferguson has made inroads into the minds of white Americans where police brutality is concerned, the jury is still out on the jury still being out. The surveillance state has been gratifyingly turned on the police state, but so far, the value of black lives remains a bear market in the judicial system.
Last week, the non-cop who killed Jordan Davis was finally convicted of murdering him, but a grand jury cleared cops of murdering John Crawford III, and by all appearances, the prosecutor in the Michael Brown killing is throwing that grand jury. Another grand jury is currently underway in the killing of Eric Garner, and even the cop who was fired and arrested for shooting Levar Jones still has a shot at a “watch the whole tape™” jury. The cops who killed Ezell Ford currently face no punishment at all.
The resolutions of these case, and others, will represent an important second phase in the post-Ferguson era, where so far, even the very real fear of police only results in more police violence, and even to-the-letter compliance with police still gets a black man shot. The omnipresence of video cameras has introduced the possibility that these cops might get caught engaging in excessive force, but so far, there’s little evidence they have anything to fear once they do get caught.
There’s another illustrative irony to this case. As any dork of a certain age knows, Kahreem Tribble shares his name with the fuzzy, non-threatening critters from one of the most popular Star Trek episodes ever, The Trouble with Tribbles. Those tribbles would never hurt a fly, as Cyrano Jones would say, but Kahreem Tribble is part of a group that is viewed as a de facto threat. One often-overlooked characteristic of those fuzzy little tribbles, however, is that they are racist.
The plot of the episode (spoiler alert) hinges on the tribbles’ blind, unreasoning hatred for Klingons. Come to think of it, Star Trek (and even Star Wars), for all of its high-minded allegory, relies heavily on rigidly stereotyping its alien characters. Even in the touchy-feely abomination that is Next Generation, moderate Klingon Worf is constantly battling his race’s warlike and violent nature. Viewed through that lens, the tribbles’ reaction to Klingons looks a lot like a peak into the minds of the cops and citizens who keep gunning down and assaulting black people:
With a racket like that going on in their heads, it’s a wonder more people don’t get shot. Or rather, it’s a wonder we don’t find out about more people getting shot. As the Levar Jones case illustrates, without video, the cops can just set their phasers on “lie.”
The trouble with Tribble, however, is that the fearful hostility that blares in the minds of many cops is shared by many of the folks who will make up the grand jury pool, and the jury pools for all of these cases. When you view an entire group of people as a threat because of the way they look, you’ll find any excuse to side with the people who stand between you and the enemy.