Daniel Prude, a Black man, was having a mental health episode in March, his family said, and died after Rochester police — called by Prude’s brother to help — covered Prude’s head with a “spit sock” and pinned him to the ground. Prude was spitting at police, visibly agitated, and said he had the coronavirus. As we watch the recently released video of the incident, those of us who are fighting against a systemically racist justice system may once again have to defend the value of a victim’s life against what may come out about his past or who he may have been associated with.
It’s yet another reminder that there are police officers who omit important details, concocting a narrative that tries to make a victim seem less deserving of justice.
It’s through this lens that many are seeing the latest news about Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Kentucky EMT whose death at the hands of police in March is under investigation.
The fear that guilt-by-association or a not-so-perfect past will stand in the way of us getting justice is an unspoken burden Black and brown people carry.
We understand that there are police officers who feel emboldened to treat us as “less than” because they know that some, if not many in the American public, could quickly deem us as not worthy of feeling safe in our own homes — like Taylor — or getting proper help — like Prude — because of the families and circumstances into which we were born and raised.
To be a Black victim of police excessive force and connected — no matter how innocently and glancingly — with any kind of crime, but particularly one dealing with drugs and violence, is to forever be a suspect.
I know people who have done awful things. Some of them are friends, some associates — some family members. They’ve been arrested multiple times, spent years in prison, where some of them remain, and have been convicted of drug dealing, attempted murder and murder. I’ve long feared that one day that lived reality will be used against me — the way it seems to be being used against Breonna Taylor right now.
That’s what makes her senseless killing by police more tragic. That tragedy will be compounded if her name is successfully defamed and the men who killed her are allowed to live their lives as if killing a Black person like Breonna Taylor isn’t worth all the outrage people like us have been feeling.