Eric Garner: July 17th, 2014. John Crawford: August 5th, 2014. Michael Brown: August 9th, 2014. Three black men, all killed by police in the space of about three weeks. And then there was Tamir Rice: November 23rd, 2014. Then came Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland. The list kept growing, the crisis exploding. Rage intensifying.
And then there is the sad saga of Bernard Bailey.
Why begin our Black History Month series of excerpts with the killing of Bernard Bailey? For the precise reason that you are asking yourself, “Who the hell is Bernard Bailey?”
Something mystical and horrible happened during the summer of 2014.
Horrible, in that we saw the killing of three blacks by police who, in each and every case, egregiously violated the procedures that they had been taught in the Academy—procedures that are preached in the most respected law enforcement magazines and publications. And “violation of procedures”, by the way, is best we can say about those particular officers.
Mystical, in that millions of hearts and minds, within the space of a few short weeks, turned their attention to the issue of black rights in America. Blacks, whites, minorities of all kinds, academic institutions, The Fourth Estate, all became attuned to the problem of police brutality and excessive force, particularly against black Americans. Yes, the official movement called “Black Lives Matter” has provoked criticism in the last two years, and some of that might even be dubbed legitimate. But few can argue with the philosophical notion that black lives matter. And the burning question of whether or not our population and our police support that principle is in the public consciousness to a degree that we haven’t seen for half a century.
People who think that a concern over these mounting numbers of dead blacks is somehow “anti-cop” couldn’t be more wrong. About one million Americans serve as police officers or as police support staff. And nothing could make the hundreds of thousands of good cops out there more miserable than having to quietly stand by while their partner punches a law abiding citizen in the head sixteen times and slams him into a cruiser windshield till the blood spurts, just for rolling through a stop sign—as in, the beating of Floyd Dent. Or watching a cop yank a camera from the county coroner who is taking pictures of a black boy hanging from a swing set, and witnessing that same cop threaten the medical examiner for trying to document the crime scene—as in, the death of Lennon Lacy. Or watching a cop threaten to Tase a young female and then slamming her to the ground because she won’t put out her cigarette—as in, the infamous arrest of Sandra Bland. Or watching a child gunned down because the officers approaching the crime scene choose to ignore the explicit procedure they were taught in the Academy—as in, the shooting of Tamir Rice.
And then, there is the uniquely tragic case of Bernard Bailey. . .
Please go to “The Little Book of Lynching” on the site Menu Bar to read Mr. Bailey’s story.