Wed | Jan 23, 2019

America's black nightmare

Published:Wednesday | June 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

If you trawl the Internet, you'll be hard-pressed to find stories about black or Latino policemen assaulting or killing white men, boys or women in the USA. Such incidents almost never happen. But simply recount off the top off your head, the numerous cases of black teenagers, men and women being subjected to assault, fatal shootings and beatings at the hands of white policemen. The incidents are legion.

No wonder black Americans feel like strangers in their own land. Living in fear that at any time their gracious hosts, the white law enforcer, may turn nasty and dole out a beating, or worse, that serves as a message that while blacks and other minorities may have been spawned in the good ol' USA, they do not really belong in the land of the free. And as the bite of that reality sinks in, I ask all Americans to speak up for the right of every person born or domiciled anywhere across the 50 states to be treated as equals, regardless of the colour of their skin.

Amid almost monthly reports of blacks being killed or assaulted by white law-enforcement officers in the USA, I am reminded of what happened nearly 46 years ago on December 4, 1969. That was the day on which it is claimed that the FBI, Cook County State Attorney's Office and the Chicago police conspired to assassinate the charismatic Black Panther leader, Fred 'Chairman' Hampton.

Hampton, then 21 years old, was asleep in his bed in his apartment when the Chicago police raided his lodging and shot him dead. Scene-of-crime reports indicate that the police, using submachine guns, rifles, pistol and a shotgun, fired 90 shots into the apartment. Hampton's woman, who was eight and a half month's pregnant at the time, recalls draping herself over his body, before being hauled out of the bedroom. She recalls hearing one white policeman ask if Hampton was dead, before hearing more shots and a confirmation from another officer that "he's good and dead now".

When his end came at age 21, Fred Hampton had already established himself as a leader. They say he made people feel powerful and could relate to everyone. The manner of his death was referred to by Noam Chomsky, the white American scientist and social-justice activist, as the gravest domestic crime of the Nixon administration. Unsurprisingly, the white men who it was widely believed orchestrated and perpetrated Hampton's murder were never convicted.




On October 16, 2010, a black 21-year-old junior at Pace University in New York City, Danroy Henry, was shot multiple times by a white policeman as he drove his car around a parking lot while waiting to collect two of his friends from a bar. After being ordered by a cop to circle the parking lot, Henry was obeying, when another cop walked out in front of the vehicle, pulled his gun and fired multiple times. A passenger in the front seat was shot in the arm and a back-seat passenger barely escaped injury.

Ballistic and forensic evidence proved that the policeman, Aaron Hess, fired the shots before he was bumped by the vehicle. I say bump because Officer Hess sustained no serious injury from the collision. After shooting Henry, Officer Hess pulled him from the vehicle, handcuffed him and left him lying face down without CPR for about 15 minutes. Henry died.

The police claimed that Henry hit three officers with the vehicle. This claim was later backtracked. The matter was investigated by the same department to which Officer Hess belonged and was undermined because crucial surveillance footage recorded at the scene mysteriously vanished. After a grand jury ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to indict him, Officer Hess was cleared of any wrongdoing. He was later named Police Officer of the Year by his department.

I could fill the pages of The Gleaner with real accounts of white law enforcers killing black men. The infuriating thing for me is that the people of the United States do not seem to think that the oppression and subjugation of blacks and minorities is a massive problem in their country. Their attitude sends a hell of a message. Selah.

• George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to and