When I was a kid, my mom played “Changes” by Tupac Shakur every time we drove around in my hometown of Tullahoma, Tennessee.
“That’s just the way it is, Things will never be the same” — lyrics I think about every time I see a shooting of an unarmed black man.
Recently, Stephon Clark, 22, was shot and killed in the backyard of his grandmother’s Sacramento home, after police suspected he had a gun. Later, the police discovered it was only a cell phone.
In weeks since the shooting, protests were held in Sacramento that shut down a Sacramento Kings game. This week, Clark’s funeral was held in a South Sacramento church, where family and friends said their goodbyes to Clark. He left behind a wife and two daughters.
Watching the body camera of the Clark shooting, you can see the policeman chasing him into the backyard, then stopping and taking cover at the side of the house. The two officers then shoot him eight times, mostly in the back. Once Clark is on the ground, you can hear police officers tell him to get up. You then hear one of the officers say “Hey mute?” and then the audio is cut off.
The pressure and risk that the police go through in their jobs goes without question. Not all police are bad. But there are other ways to deal with a suspect then to fatally shoot them, and Stephon Clark’s shooting shows a lack compassion from the police. In the video, Clark is shown running away from them and stopped at a considerable distance away from the officers. At that point, a strategy could have been made to safely attain him.
Some people have have criticized Stevante Clark, Stephon’s brother, for the way that he has acted in response to his brother’s death. Stevante Clark is in pain from the loss of his brother, and everyone has their own way to deal with pain. Everyone grieves differently. I empathize with him because I have a brother, and I can’t imagine the uselessness that he feels, knowing he couldn’t do anything.
Six years ago, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. I was 17 at the time, and the day he was shot, a reality hit me: that could have been me. Walking around my neighborhood at night was something I did to clear my head, but my mother wouldn’t let me do that anymore after the shooting. She was concerned that an officer would stop me.
When I drive my 2000 Honda Civic around town and see a police officer, a scenario plays in my head of getting pulled over, the officer becoming upset with me and shooting me. To most reading this, it seems drastic and dramatic. But to black men in America, it’s a reality.
Yet another rap song that comes to mind when I think about all of this is “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar.
“We gon’ be alright.”
These shootings will keep happening until everyone as a collective unit seeks change. I believe that our generation will be the people who seek change, and later down the road, we will live in a much safer society that respects and appreciates every person, regardless of race or gender.