Randy Moss’ Hall of Fame ceremony in 2018 took place during a familiar time in America. Innocent and unarmed Black men were being killed by police officers at alarming rates across the country.
Black people in America were hurting and Colin Kapernick was still being blackballed for bringing attention to these atrocities and other economic and coaxial justice oppression by peacefully kneeling for the national anthem.
Moss used his NFL Hall of Fame induction time as a healing opportunity for social upliftment. Moss offered support for the families unjustifiably murdered at the hands of the police by putting their names on his tie. He didn’t want people to lose sight of the real narrative.
Randy Moss' tie he wore tonight pic.twitter.com/RreQNkkNmZ
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 5, 2018
Sensitivity towards these issues is needed more than ever. Moss totally represented his people in one of the more remarkable expressions of social activism in recent memory. A bit more specific than “I Can’t Breathe” or “Black Lives Matter” shirts and far more militant than LeBron and Kyrie Irvings equality kicks.
Moss acknowledged the 12 most high-profile and egregious police killings of unarmed Black folks in recent memory and let the world know that you can’t erase social activism in the NFL with threats, tougher policies, or misconstruing the narrative on players’ protests.
Two years later and you can add George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery (just to name a few of the more highly publicized victims) to the list of Black lives snuffed out by police violence and police indifference towards Black people. The bodies accumulate so quickly that some victims of police brutality are egregiously forgotten.
Sean Reed was killed by police on Facebook Live, fleeing from the cops.
Meanwhile, white men can swing hatchets at police without fear of losing their lives.
Broken Record of Brutality
Black America finds itself in the midst of a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that is disproportionately affecting people of color and meanwhile, frustrated people in Minnesota and other parts of the country are protesting, setting police precincts fires, and lashing out in pain at a system that has ignored their cries for too long, claimed too many promising Black lives.
Like COVID-19, this assault on Black America is felt by every person of color.
Back in 2015, Freddie Gray was killed in police custody. That same year, a 28-year-old African American woman named Sandra Bland was allegedly found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, on July 13, 2015, three days after being arrested during a Terry stop, which allows cops to briefly detain a person based on reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity. Her murder was ruled as a suicide Further salt in the wounds of Black consciousness.
The specter of police brutality against African Americans is as old as American policing itself. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded as a direct result of police brutality, and other groups have been galvanized to action by it as well.
We can go back to Emmett Till being falsely accused and dragged until the flesh was ripped clean off his bones and he was almost unrecognizable. Or jump to the 1991 video of Rodney King being savagely beaten by a gang of LAPD officers.
Even back then, the same old racist arguments would still occur if someone brought up anything involving black people and abusive law enforcement. ‘He deserved to get beat or else why did he run? Why didn’t he/she just lay perfectly still until the officers properly subdued him? Why do Black people have such an irrational fear of the police?’
Of the aforementioned statements, ‘Why do Black people hate and fear the police?’ has to be among the most frustrating to address.
We can’t really rely on the President because his eloquence is limited. He refers to people who fight for their inalienable rights in this country as “thugs” rather than heroes.
It occurred to me some time ago that police brutality, as well as the justice system’s absolute refusal to prosecute crooked cops, is a static phenomenon in American history.
From the Reconstruction Era raids of terror to the murder of Philandro Castille, U.S. history continually tells individuals of African descent that they do not matter, despite paying taxes, fighting every war ever fought under an American mandate and making thousands of contributions to the overall tapestry of American democracy.
The White majority in America just doesn’t seem to get it. Maybe some fo the people in Minnesota do, but then again, we don’t know the true intentions of some white people participating in the peaceful protests and looting.
Back when I still had the energy to explain the evils of racism to seemingly ambiguous White people, and back when I still believed the solution to institutional racism and police brutality had to do with some kind off switch that could be found via legal measures, the Rodney King chase, beating, trial, and subsequent acts of urban insurrections after the acquittal of the officers involved was a true revelation for me.
Back in 1992, I was still in high school. Thus, despite all the signposts that marked the steady oppression of my Black people in America, I was still wishful, hopeful, prayer-full, and perhaps foolish to believe that justice would be served because it was due.
The innocence of an 18-year-old doesn’t seem like much when you’re 25. Perhaps because the degrees by which the arc of innocence bends toward knowledge is indiscernible at such young ages, but looking back on it now, my hope in the justice system as a teenage Black American male looks like so much misplaced energy.
What happened in LA after officers Stacey Koon, Laurence Michael Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind were acquitted, is happening again in Minnesota, Seattle and surrounding areas across the country as the frustrated community is lashing out at the senseless “I Can’t Breathe” killing of George Floyd, which follows the hunting and execution of Arbery and a period of 74 days before indictments were handed down.
Folks are fed up. They’ve been fed up. Talking and praying is no longer working.
Another protest was announced for Thursday evening near county offices in downtown Minneapolis. Some stores in Minneapolis and the suburbs closed early, fearing more strife. The city shut down its light-rail system and planned to stop all bus services. https://t.co/OHOXDMk68E
— KELOLAND News (@keloland) May 29, 2020
Now I know that riots are cyclical and are largely spurred by the same thing: white apathy and collusion in the face of institutional racism. We’re expected to simply lay down and get our asses kicked, expected to trust these men, some of whom get a distinct pleasure out of causing black pain and death, and give the United States the benefit of the doubt simply because we were born here.
Though no chronic pain afflicts me nor are my gray hairs numerous, the ages of my children remind me that I am growing older. But the problems remain the same.
Rodney King, though battered within inches of his life, lived. But Eric Garner did not, nor did Philandro Castile, nor did Trayvon Martin and Stephon Clark, gunned down by Sacramento police in 2018. Or Oscar Grant, who was killed executioner style and shot in the back.
It’s not a matter of will another police beating or shooting occur, it’s just a matter of when. And more importantly — with the Presidency of the United States up for grabs and neither candidate able to genuinely express an agenda for correcting these century-old ills — what will the Black community do once the rioting and protesting subdue?
Can we even trust our leaders to do the right thing? We certainly can’t continue to replay this broken record of pan over and over again.