Like many people, I’m sickened at the McKinney video. A teenage girl, wearing only a swimsuit and crying for her mother, is not a threat to a fully dressed cop with a weapon and police training. Her friends, teenagers who were just trying to enjoy a pool party on a warm day, were not a threat to this cop or anyone else. They did not need to be handcuffed. They did not even need to be spoken to harshly or disrespectfully.
Only black teens are targeted in this video. White teens are not only let go, they are spoken to politely by the officer. A random white dude lingers near the cop…not overtly threatening, but inserting himself into the situation as an ally to the officer, not the persecuted teens.
I’m a rage-crier myself, more prone to tears when I’m super pissed off than when I’m sad, and this video made me tear up. The whole thing is an awful nightmarish live action demonstration of police brutality and blatant racism. But like many people, I was particularly struck by the fact that the girl who has her hair pulled and her face slammed into the ground was crying for her mother – that, more than anything else, really hit a chord with a lot of people. This officer is trying to act like a bikini-clad teenage girl is a threat, meanwhile the girl’s first instinct when this was happening to her was “I want my mom.”
What’s worse is that this disturbance appears to have been caused by an adult white woman – possibly a mother herself – slinging racial slurs at a bunch of teenagers.
As for the statement that “nobody was injured” – um, I beg to differ. When you’re a teenager innocently and peacefully enjoying a pool party, who is approached by white adults using racial slurs to let you know that you’re unwelcome, and you call them out on their racism…yet you and your friends are the ones who end up handcuffed and slammed into the ground? Yeah, that’s an injury. It’s a *big* injury. So don’t tell me those kids weren’t harmed – they were most definitely harmed.
As the outrage over the McKinney pool party nightmare (rightfully) continues, here are a four of the many articles I’ve read that I found particularly poignant.
McKinney pool party cop’s vicious hatred: This is the face of white rage – By Marie Myung-Ok Lee discussing the incident in McKinney, her own encounters with racism, and the “daily indignities” of systemic racism.
McKinney, Texas: Rage is Our Rightful Response to Anti-Black Racism – By Kirsten West Savali, discussing rage, racial bias, and how black children are targeted by police.
4 Shocking ways Segregation Continues to Devastate Black America – By Lawrence Brown, referencing McKinney but discussing the larger issues facing black people. It’s not just police brutality – there are a myriad of ways that black people’s lives are made more difficult by a socioeconomic system that works to their disadvantage.
McKinney pool part incident has everything to do with race – By Dorothy A. Brown (with video), discussing how this video would not exist had these been white teenagers. But I think what makes me the saddest about this piece, and other pieces that have said the same, is that this is considered “progress” and “a step forward” – and why? Because none of the kids were killed by the cop. (Very short piece – if you’re limited on time, at least read this one.)
I am sincerely and profoundly happy that the girl who was crying for her mother did get to go home to her mother. So did all the other kids. And as happy as I am, I can’t imagine the relief of those parents, knowing what could easily have happened – knowing that instead of comforting an upset teenager, they could be planning a funeral. But think about that – our system is so fucked up that we consider it progress that the cop only pointed his gun, but didn’t fire it. Just sit with that for a minute. No parent should ever have to be grateful that the cops only threatened and brutalized their kids.
I have a message to others – if you see something like this happening, do what a bystander in McKinney did and get it on video. My understanding is that as long as you’re not interfering with the cops and you’re at a bit of a distance, they can’t do anything to you. They can threaten to, but legally they can’t confiscate your phone or ask you to stop recording. (I don’t know if that’s the same in all states? But I think it is?) Unfortunately, video evidence is practically the only way to hold unruly authority figures accountable. It’s harder to defend your actions or lie when it’s all on video.
Chances are, this never would have been anything more than a blip in local news, and this officer never would have been held accountable for his actions, had this incident not been caught on video.
The McKinney video is a perfect example of what institutionalized racism and police brutality look like. This is a yet another case of “they’re black so they must be guilty of something” playing out, not only in the video, but in pro-police, mainly right-wing interpretations of the situation that have happened since.
It’s 2015, and a bunch of black teenagers were just brutalized by police because white people didn’t want them at a pool. And in case you’ve been living under a rock, pools have a very racially-charged history in this country. So let’s think about that – it’s 2015, and a bunch of black teenagers were brutalized because white people didn’t want to share a public space with them. The cops were called and black teenagers were brutalized because of a “disturbance” – that disturbance being that the black teenagers refused to vacate a pool area after enduring racist commentary.
The idea that the Civil Rights Movement solved racism, and that America is now post-racial, is a dangerous delusion. I think America is waking up to that more and more, but we have a hell of a long way to go.