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An African-American family checked their North Tulsa mailbox on Friday, April 28, 2017, to find a piece of mail with a picture of Officer Betty Shelby’s face in the top left corner on the envelope.
The front of the envelope reads:
“Hatred for law enforcement…Hatred for the rule of law…
…Threatens the VERY LIFE of this honorable police officer.
60 Minutes proved her innocence!
Yet, the trial starts May 8th — Please, read at once!!!”
The letter came from a Washington D.C. group called The National Center for Police Defense, Inc., which is currently raising funds for Shelby’s defense. The center’s website says that it is “dedicated to helping law enforcement officers in their time of need.” They describe the need for the center further on their About page:
In today’s society when a police officer receives a call, he knows, he is no longer respected by the community or by the system that he swore an oath to protect and serve. These are not his friends and neighbors. Those he endeavors to help may be waiting in ambush for him. He is just a pawn in the game and continually at the mercy of the government.
It becomes very difficult to do your job when the Executive of that Branch doesn’t acknowledge that your life is worth as much as the street thug who tries to kill you with your own weapon.
Their language and cause are all too familiar. When a white officer receives public scrutiny for their racially biased actions and crimes, institutional racism awakens from its backroom dormancy, inflaming the hearts of racists and xenophobes. Like a genetic disease, racism is passed through the generations. The germ of America’s racist past is planted in children, who grow into adults, who lack the ability to reason. Betty Shelby is the product and the face of institutional racism.
The solicitation the Tulsa family received serves as concrete evidence that institutional racism not only exists in America today, but it is in fact prevalent. It demonstrates that in the shadows of this great country, organizations that defend the arbitrary killing of precious black lives are subsidized and applauded by the U.S. Government in the form of 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.
Whether Shelby is a person of good character or not should not be the essence of this conversation. The center of this case must be: Did Terence Crutcher die because of Officer Shelby’s subconscious racism?
Decoding the Hidden Message on the Envelope
“Hatred for law enforcement” If Americans were to honestly ask themselves “Which race is most likely to have a hatred for law enforcement?,” most would respond that the African Americans, in general, hate law enforcement more than other races. This is logical to African Americans. Blacks in America have been subjugated by law enforcement since their days of enslavement. Generations have been taught for centuries to fear cops because some officers abuse their power by preying on the defenseless; usually poor people of color.
“Hatred for the rule of law” If Americans were to honestly ask themselves a second question: “Which ethnicity is more likely to have hatred for the rule of law created by the hegemony?,” most people would have to agree that it is the group of people who have been most impacted by the country’s laws; African Americans.
The African-American community is a part of the larger American community. African-American police officers are sprinkled across the country in every middle-sized and major city. African Americans are citizens whose lives matter just as much as every other ethnic group in this country. They are tax-payers, who are quick to call the police when needed or to help an officer in trouble.
Organizations, like The National Center for Police Defense, Inc., perpetuate the deep racial schism in the United States with the Federal Government’s approval. Marginalized communities, which are mostly black and brown, are even less likely to have a trusting relationship with the police when institutional racism is overtly advertised by mailing solicitations directly to the subjugated community.