Diallo, Born in Liberia On September 2,1976
It was February 1999, it was the midnight hour when shots rang out. New York plain-clothes police officers shot and killed Amadou Diallo (1976-1999), a 23-year old West African immigrant.
He was standing in the doorway of his apartment building when he was confronted by police searching for a rape suspect. Diallo was Black, and that was sufficient for the officers to say he resembled the suspect they were searching for.
The plain-clothes officers jumped out their car and shouted “don’t move.” Diallo reached into his pocket, and before he could get his cell phone out, the police fired 41 shots, of which 19 hit Diallo, killing him on his doorstep. Diallo, was an unarmed Black man minding his own business when 4 white police officers shot him dead, the impetus being his Blackness.
It took a lot of psychological manipulation for white people in America to stereotype Black people as violent, reprobate, dangerous criminals. I say that because according to European dogma, for the first 350 years in America, Black people were slaves, inferior, submissive, subservient, docile, and cursed by God to submit and serve white people, who are a superior race of people.
It is the opinion of this writer that the decision of the white police officers to shoot and kill Diallo was influenced by the stereotypic association between Black people, criminality, and violence. B.L. Ducan, “Testing the Lower Limits of Stereotyping of Blacks,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: showed that the same mildly aggressive behavior is perceived as more threatening when it is performed by an African American than when it is performed by a White person. A white person’s light push seems like a violent shove when performed by an African American.
And so, Diallo’s behavior raised the question; “what is he reaching for,” and as the officers psychologically processed this question, in what was a matter of seconds, there is no doubt in my mind that racial bias and social stereotypes precipitated and informed the rational for the officers actions.
Diallo, reached toward his pocket for his cell phone, he was a Black man, and was shot dead. Being Black is just part of the equation when unarmed Black people are killed by police. According to numerous simulations and studies, what stood out most was that the decision making criteria for shooting Black people is lower for white police officers, than it is for white people. When police have encounters with Black people, they require less certainty that they are, in fact, holding a gun before they decide to shoot.
Amadou Diallo, had lived in the U.S. for two and a half years. He worked everyday saving his money to enroll in college. His goal was to be a professional computer programmer. He never even had a traffic ticket, long less a criminal record. His mother said,
- “The last time we spoke on the phone, he said to me, ‘Mom, I’m going to college.”
But, immediately upon his death the media began the work of stereotypically vilifying Diallo. He was served up as a street peddler, because there was nothing else for white America to feed themselves with.
The white police officers who killed Diallo were charged with second-degree murder. And in a controversial trial, that began on February 2, 2000, and ended on February 25, 2000, all four officers were acquitted. And as the officers left the court room free to go on with their lives, Black people the world over had tears in their eyes.
Cry Tears Of Oneness
More than once life has caused tears to swell up in my eyes. My awareness of Black lives, living in other times, speaks to my soul and forms thoughts in my mind. I remember when Marvin Gaye said to me, “you look like someone who knows Jesus.” I looked and him and responded, “yes, what about you; do you know Jesus?” And he said, “yes; and when I saw you, I could sense that you know Jesus; it’s always cool to meet people and talk about Jesus.”
Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father on April 1, 1984; it was the day before his 45th birthday, and all around the world people cried when they heard the news that he was dead. Again, my eyes filled with tears, as Marvin was my friend.
Even though we only met the one time, he was by friend and brother in Christ. Marvin shared his love and belief in Christ Jesus with me, and as such, Marvin will always be present in my mind and soul as a part of me that strengthens my faith in Jesus Christ.
Yet there are other lives, lives lived long ago that speak in my thoughts. James Cone alludes to Bishop Daniel Payne’s account of how slaves wrestled with faith and belief in God. It was hard for the slave to be beat on, cut on, and abused sexually. The white slaver yielded no mercy to Black slaves, all the while professing Christianity and reciting prayers to justify inhuman acts of violence. Cone quotes Bishop Payne:
- “A few nights ago…a runaway slave came to the house where I live for safety and succor. I asked him if he was a Christian: “No sir, said he, white men treat us so bad in Mississippi that we can’t be Christians.”
The Black community along with rest of the world are grieving the tragic loss of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died with his hands handcuffed behind his back, laying face down while a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed in knee into George’s neck until he was unconscious and probably dead. George Floyd, was another unarmed Black Man, murdered by a white police officer.
Hal Marx, the Mayor of Petal, a city in Mississippi tweeted on May 26th, “that he didn’t understand why anyone in the world would choose to become a police officer,” on the same day the officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired. He then followed up his tweet with a reference to George Floyd’s death.
- “If you can say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing. Most likely that man died of overdose or heart attack. Video doesn’t show his resistance that got him in that position. Police being crucified.”
Mayor Marx, reminds me of the Police Chief Thomas Herrod, of Winona, Mississippi. On June 9, 1963 Fannie Lou Hamer along with other civil rights activist were traveling on a Greyhound bus, sitting in the “white” section of the bus. When the bus arrived at the Winona bus depot, Fannie Lou Hamer and the actives sat at the “white only” lunch counter inside the terminal. Chief Thomas Herrod had them arrested.
Once in jail, white jailers forced two Black prisoners to savagely beat Fannie Lou Hamer with loaded blackjacks and she was nearly killed. As she regained consciousness, she overheard one of the white officers propose:
- “we could put them SOBs in the Big Black River and nobody would ever find them.”
Fannie Lou Hamer never fully recovered from the attack; she lost vision in one of her eyes and suffered permanent kidney damage, which contributed to her death in 1977 at age 59.
Mrs. Hamer believed in the humanity of Black people; she believed in the humanity of all people. And the injustices Black people suffered gave her reason to defy the ways of white social order in the United States. In her defiance she was able to transcend the fear of dying. Thus, she was able to live her life for others; she is the embodiment of what Jesus was advocating when he said:
- Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
In the words of a Black slave, I can feel Fannie Lou Hamer near the point of death, with tears in her eyes, saying; “don’t cry for me.
- When I’m gone, When I’m gone, When I’m gone, gone, gone, O Mother, don’t you weep when I am gone. For I’m goin to Heav’n above, Going to meet God I love, O mother, don’t you weep when I am gone.
In my heart I believe that both Amadou Diallo, and George Floyd died to soon, and that they died because of social factors that quicken police to kill unarmed Black people as a result of beliefs and values that have been perpetuated in mainstream white culture.
White people have for generations fostered disdain for Black people. It is present in their homes, and schools. From there, racial animus is influenced by one’s peers and the media. White people, like all people categorize the world, both the social and physical world, into neat little groups.
The social categories and groups represent castles with impenetrable walls. The people inside the castle don’t allow any new information to penetrate the castles walls. Everybody in the castles is psychologically cloned; they feed off and share the same information.
The people in the castles believe they have it right, and no longer need to think about what others are like, or what they will do, or be in life. All the information about people and the world is contained behind the impenetrable castle walls (stereotype). Being in the castles enables people to feel good about themselves, fostered by thinking their castle is superior to others castles.
In this brief analogy, I am trying to shed light on the stereotypes (the way white people see Black people), in order to illuminate the cognitive aspect of what we see play out when a white police officer kills an unarmed Black person, as well as, the attitude and disposition of white people toward these modern day lynchings.
People who live behind castles walls perpetuate stereotypes, even unknowingly at times. I thought about the impenetrable castles when reviewing Job Biden (candidate for president of U.S.) words. He said:
- “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”
Between 1882 and 1968, there were 4,743 people lynched in the United States. Of that number, 3,446 were Black people, and 1297 where white people.
When Black people were lynched, it began with criminal accusations, often unproven, and culminated in the assembly of a “lynch mob” intent on subverting legal and judicial process. The “lynch mob” was made up of white Americans who embraced lynching Black people, as a joyous moment of wholesome celebration.
Stereotypes are developed over time, and are perpetuated through social norms. And so, I think Joe Biden gets it wrong. The sins of his father and grandfather are embodied in the castle walls. And until those walls are torn down, innocent Black people will continued to be murdered by white people.
The stereotypes must change, and until they do, no doubt, tears will continue to feel at home in the eyes of Black people. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”