What If He Had Been White?

It happened over a week ago, on March 1st, in Boulder, Colorado.  Zayd Atkinson was minding his own business, picking up trash on his own property.  Suddenly a police officer approached him to ask who he was, why he was there, what he was doing, as if he were an interloper or a suspect in some crime.  The officer pulls his gun, although he doesn’t point it directly at Zayd, and soon the officer is joined by seven other officers.  Did I mention that Mr. Atkinson is African-American?  Did I even need to mention that?

At couple of Zayd’s neighbors were in the area, saw what was happening, and tried to tell the officer that he was only picking up trash, that he lived there.  One even happened to film the incident.  The officers ultimately walked away, after checking his identification and were finally convinced that Mr. Atkinson did, indeed live there, and that he was not holding a lethal weapon, but one of those trash-picking-up-stick-thingies.  The video Mr. Atkinson’s neighbor filmed went viral and public outrage was fierce.

According to Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa …

“This is a very concerning issue, and one we’re taking very seriously.  All aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated.”

Okay, so there you have the facts.  I am glad that the police department is taking the matter seriously, if in fact they are, but will withhold judgment on that until their investigation is complete and we see what, if any, action they take.  But I do have a couple of questions.

First, if the officer had noticed Mr. Atkinson in the yard with the long stick and a bucket, and if Mr. Atkinson had been pale-skinned, would the officer have even given it a second thought?  Would he have walked over to Mr. Atkinson, pulling his pistol out of its holster?  Folks, we can all answer this question without even thinking about it.  It was a nice neighborhood and Mr. Atkinson is black.  In the officer’s mind, no doubt that did not add up, Mr. Atkinson could not possibly have belonged there, and holding a stick, too!

Second question I have is, if the video filmed by Mr. Atkinson’s neighbor had not quickly been seen nationwide, would the Boulder Police Department be investigating now?  Was the investigation launched, not as a matter of due process or justice for Mr. Atkinson, but as a result of coverage by both local and nationwide (CNN, The Washington Post) media outlets?  I think we probably know the answer to that one, too.

Chief Testa said the investigation could take months.  Why?  He says the officers were all wearing body cams, plus there is the ‘unofficial’ video by the neighbor.  The incident only lasted sixteen minutes.  Why should the investigation take ‘months’?  The officer who initiated the contact and drew his weapon has been “placed on administrative leave”, almost certainly with pay.

Racist incidents take place in every state in this nation, but coincidentally, there was yet another in Colorado the same week the officer harassed Mr. Atkinson.  This time, a home in Denver, owned by Ken Jenkins, an African-American man, was sprayed with racist graffiti, including an image of a lynching scene and the N-word, that was scrawled all over the front of the home.

Mr. Jenkins said he is leaving it up for a little while …

“I felt like if I painted over this, it makes everything go quiet and it just kinda fades out like everything else does. We will have this removed at some point, but we wanted the community to be able to have a conversation about it and leave it up for a little while.” 

Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks said …

“This isn’t an isolated incident. This is the world we’re living in.”

These two incidents are just another in a long string of such incidents by both law enforcement and private citizens, but unless we shine a bright light on these incidents every time they happen, then they fade into the background and before we know it, will become the norm, “just one of those things” that everybody accepts as “the way things are”.  I’m not willing to allow that to happen, which is why I wrote this today.  Awareness is key.  Protesting such atrocities is key.  We will not turn away or bury our heads in the sand, but we will speak up and speak out whenever we can and as loudly as we can.bigotry

43 thoughts on “What If He Had Been White?

  1. Dear Jill,

    I feel for Mary and those who need to take a break from all this BS.

    I have figured out that there’s no way to reach, move or to persuade President Trump’s followers to jump ship.I just did a post on two sociologists who have been profiling the type of folks who follow President Trump. Their report, ‘The Anger Games is in Journal Critical Sociology. They argue that those who’ve continued to back President Trump are not doing so, because of being financially strapped. They share the prejudices and angry impulses of President Trump and they, too are attracted to authoritarian leaders. If they ever jump ship, it will be because he appears neutered/ weakened. That’s why he has to look and act like the Alpha male. FOX TV helps with all of this. They make their fortune in stoking the anger and prejudices of their audience members.

    These are the same ones who are claiming that Democrats hate Israel and the Jewish peoples; that Rep. Omar was involved with terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. They have to be called out on their sick, divisive BS.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yes, I empathize with Mary and Larry, too. We all need a break … I just cannot seem to tear myself away, and you are the same, for look how you spent your last break! 😉

      I am, obviously, behind on reading my friends’ posts … exhaustion reigns … but I will definitely check out the one you mention, as well as the two you wrote about the Green New Deal. That take on Trump’s followers makes a lot of sense and explains, in part, why they seem willing to put up with all his bizarre behaviour. Sigh. This nation cannot withstand, I don’t think, another six years of Trump, so fortunately those hard-core supporters are still in the minority. The democrats need to strengthen their resolve, stop bickering amongst themselves, present a united front, and hone in on an exceptional candidate for next year, whether it be Biden, Harris, or Warren. And … the courts need to put paid to as much of the gerrymandering as possible.

      Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. After I read this the first time and felt my usual anger I re-read it and came away with a little bit of hope.Maybe Mr Atkinson’s neighbour who came forward to the police to verify who he was and then filmed it on his phone was white. That would be wonderful, proof positive we can live together and look after each other. If the neighbour was black however, I should congratulate him on his courage on approahing a white police officer in possession of a gun.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 4 people

    • I don’t know if the neighbor was African-American or not … but you make a good point … either way, it is encouraging. And the fact that the officer refrained from “shoot first, ask questions later” is also a positive sign. I think the thing that offended me the most was that he just assumed, because it was an affluent neighborhood, that a black man had no legitimate reason for being there. That is an attitude that does eventually lead to trouble.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think the thing that offended me the most was that he just assumed, because it was an affluent neighborhood, that a black man had no legitimate reason for being there.

        Yes, that’s what bothered me. But, on second thought, maybe it wasn’t all that wrong. To the police, the black man looked out of place there. And maybe it is appropriate to investigate something that looks out of place.

        Of course, the reason that it looks out of place, is the racism from 50 years ago and continuing until now. We need to work toward changing that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You make a good point … two good points, actually. It IS their job to investigate if something doesn’t look right, but too, it shouldn’t be the case that a black person in a nice neighborhood looks “out of place”. As the song by Peter, Paul and Mary goes … “When will we ever learn?”

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m actually grateful to see the police showing some semblance of self restraint. My initial reaction while reading the title of this post was Oh No, another case of police brutality or straight out assassination. US police usually rush the poor black man and go full Gestapo, usually accompanied by a beating or a knee upon the neck. The S.O.P. would be to scream “drop the weapon”, as they assume all black ppl are carrying, then shoot and ask questions later. Typically the scenario calls for immediate backup regardless of the situation, never inquiring, assessing or de-escalating if necessary. It’s always guilty until proven innocent when it comes to ppl of color.
    Jill you are right to mention the lack of reason and humanity when it comes to police training. Cops now learn to fear for their lives, react by shooting first and not communicating. This is not right, the police has become the enemy of the ppl they are hired to protect.
    It’s also a very sad state of affairs when we should feel grateful and pleased that the police didn’t break the law once again by murdering innocent civilians all in the name of doing their job! I remember as a kid the motto of NYPD was “To protect and serve, with courtesy professionalism & respect”. The oath of police:
    “I, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of constable with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality,and that I will uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people, according to law.”
    Perhaps a refresher course is long overdue.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A refresher course is long overdue! There was a push by the Justice Department a few years ago (under Obama) to do exactly that, in the wake of Freddy Grey, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, and so many others. But, alas, along came Trump, Sessions, et al, and the initiative was rescinded. It is fortunate that we haven’t seen more like those in the past year, but I’m not holding my breath.

      Like

  4. A few weeks back I just reached a point…so bone tired of trump, the racism, the hate, his cult, the religious extremism, the intolerance and the arroganceof it all. I see no way back worldwide, not just here in the US. To me, it’s a growing cancer and trump is rather a big tumor that has mestatisized and is now spreading deeper into his ever growing cult. But this cancer was there before him and it often lays dormant for years, but it always seems to re emerge.

    I really don’t know what will be worse…climate destruction that will have, perhaps fatal effects on our lives or this growing hatred and bigotry that will have the same fatal effects long term. As the song said..a dark moon is rising.

    I’m afraid I’ve reached the point of feeling it’s all hopeless, so I’ve turned somewhat inward lately, trying to focus and enjoy my simple easy life and fill it with food, wine, art and gardening. I’m taking a break for now.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I am with Mary. Still aware, still connected, still concerned – but those who insist on spreading hate, racism and violence are not going to piss in my Cheerios. None of us will escape this life alive, so my choice is finding peace and joy in the kinder things.❤

      Liked by 3 people

      • And my response to Mary goes for you, too, my friend. I understand fully, and hope you’ll pop in for the lighter, more fun posts on Mondays or Wednesdays. Be happy, is all I ask, and let me know how you are from time to time. Hugs!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I hope you did not misunderstand my comment. I fully appreciate your commentary – it saves me from watching 3 hours of MSNBC every night and scanning the news all day. Jill, you are doing a great job of reporting news that needs to be exposed. I appreciate your efforts and perseverance. That’s why I read you.❤🙏

          Liked by 1 person

          • Awww … you are so kind, Larry. I didn’t think you were being critical, just that you were saying you needed a bit of a break from the dark topics. If that were the case, I could certainly understand … we all do. I have lost readers before who said I needed to lighten up, and I do try with my weekly features. But what’s going on here and in the rest of the world is so important that I simply cannot leave it alone. I appreciate your support and friendship! Hugs!!!

            Liked by 1 person

    • I certainly understand your angst, for I share it. By all means, my friend, do take a break … step back, find things to enjoy in life, and breathe. It’s something we should all do, although I’m unlikely to take my own advice. Be well, and pop in every now and again, perhaps on Jolly Monday, or Good People Wednesday, just to let us know how you are. Hugs, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am getting sooo sick and tired of hearing about incidents like this. While I respect their position and recognize the part they play in our society … I still want to scream … YOU F’ING COPS! GET A LIFE!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Jill, thanks for sharing this. The best contrasting example is a black child is shot in Cleveland within seconds of police arriving while holding a toy gun, but a 64 year-old white man is talked into ceding his rifle in Detroit after an hour-long conversation. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” there is a predisposition to act that is difficult to train out. But, we must try. A police officer has a hard job, but we must invest in the necessary training, community policing and treat all instances where weapons are drawn as learning opportunities. And, the police unions and officials need to have the same mindset that the pilot union has when they investigate a crash. Mistakes happen and all of us have biases we must manage. Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks Keith. We will never get rid of prejudice entirely, but there is something wrong when the very people we trust to protect us are the people we fear most. You’re right … police officers have one of the toughest jobs there is. I could not do it, and I know that. And I have the utmost respect for police in general …. or at least I did until the last decade or so. But for some it is a power trip, that gun makes them feel big, strong, powerful. While white parents teach their children that the police officer is your friend, black parents teach their children to be leery of the police, to avoid them whenever possible, and never to trust them. There is a reason for this. Your example sums it up quite clearly.

      Liked by 2 people

    • What you say is true, but it isn’t only here in the U.S. … I see increasing bigotry in its many forms throughout the Western world these days, including much of Europe and even your own country. I think in large part it is one of the tenets of the ‘populist movement’ that is spreading its tentacles far and wide. Sigh. I wish I saw progress toward a kinder, more peaceful world, but instead I see the opposite. Hugs Jack! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Since 2016, these “incidents” have become the norm, not the oddity. Who knew it could get so bad so quickly and so easily? After having lived through the 50s and 60s, watching race riots on TV, and then living through the fall of apartheid in South Africa, which almost every nation on Earth cheered for, to watch this same world go backwards into the dark ages in less than 4 short years, what the hell happened! It was Trump, of course, but it was much more than Trump! It was racists who had pretended for years that they were better than they really were, and growing to hate the world they were living in. Now they are being open with their hatred, their bigotry, and their mean-spiritedness. And they think this world belongs to them!
    Wake up, people, this world belongs to everyone, and always will. The more racist you are, the more scared you are going to become. It is your children you are setting up for lifetimes of being hated in return, not just a few short years. You best hope those choldren are smarter than you are, because while a breaking point has not been reached yet, it will happen, and your children will suffer from your stupidity. This I say with all the respect I can offer you, the world you think you want will never happen. Just when you think you are about to win, the tinyness of your minds will be your downfall. The nice folk in this world who are still sleeping will arise, and smother you with kindness, a kindness you will not be able to understand, or to handle. Instead of turning on your enemies, as you see us SJWs, you will turn on yourselves, and rid the world of your hatred on your own. It is only a matter of time. Friendship and love offer hope. Hatred offers only pain, suffering, and finally death. You who hate today are signing the death warrants of your children. And YOU will be responsible for that!

    Liked by 3 people

    • What you say makes a great deal of sense! I had never thought, at least not consciously, of it like that before, but you are right. Will the world ever be stable again, I wonder? I just saw the breaking news that Parliament rejected Ms. May’s Brexit deal … sigh. Hugs, my friend … we all need them today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • She clings on grimly. So assuming they vote to prevent a crash and burn Brexit tomorrow – we are back to an square one – an ineffective and self obsessed leader with an incompetent cabinet AND a dysfunctional opposition. All trying to sort out the most important issue the country has faced in decades. These muppets have failed for 18 months and now they have a second chance to again mess it up…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Funny, for just a few nights ago I was talking with my friend David (North Wales) who projected that May would be gone at least by the end of April, while I had read that she might stay in office until 2020. Now, I read that there may be another vote of no confidence. Sigh. I just have all ten fingers crossed that you guys don’t end up with a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Hang in there, my friend … I know these are tense times, but try to find ways to relax as much as possible. Hugs!

          Liked by 1 person

          • We all love a bit of irony. She decided to jump into bed with the Northern Ireland DUP party. A party with some pretty extreme views on some areas. As a sweetener she gave them £1B in investment is areas which continue to be squeezed in the UK. Days after telling nurses that we don’t have a money tree to pay for stuff – except when it’s for keeping her in power. For 18 months the DUP have essentially set government policy in many areas. And now the DUP has sunk her deal. They are the most incompetent, self serving, useless government we have ever had. And they are 10 percentage points clear in the polls…… unbelievable,

            Liked by 1 person

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