Trouble in Texas: Skin Color & Police Response

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Ariana Salinas

Contributor, Teacher, Coffee Lover, Radicalist

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Skin color doesn’t define who we are, but unfortunately, it can impact how people are treated. There are people in this world who are trying to systematically destroy our brothers and sisters because skin color is all they see. To prove my point, let’s focus on two major incidents that happened recently in Texas.

This past May, in Waco, TX, an alleged feud between two local motorcycle gangs led to beatings, stabbings and shootings at Twin Peaks restaurant. In the months leading up to the shootout, police officers became concerned about potential gang activity, and officers were stationed at the restaurant, making their presence known, in an effort to prevent violence. On the day of the shootout the police said that they responded within minutes, and when law enforcement arrived at the scene the bikers turned their weapons on the officers. Many people were injured; 9 were killed.

3ac83b98d2e084f94ebc3e6b5439f951If you have seen any of the photos from arrests made that day you will notice that an alarming number of the biker gang members were not handcuffed. None of them were killed or thrown to the ground, and some were even on their phones. Let me repeat: the gang members were shooting at officers, a number of people were injured or killed, and yet the bikers responsible remained unharmed by law enforcement, and many remained unrestrained.

If you take a look at any of the mug shots from arrests made that day, you will notice a trend of older white or white-passing men allegedly responsible for that day’s violence. It does not appear that news outlets referred to them as “thugs.” Nor does it appear that anyone demanded to see the statistics of single parent homes or drug use connected to those involved in the incident. It does not appear that arguments were made stating: “had they not shot at officers they wouldn’t have been booked” because that’s not a real argument. According to witnesses, these white men committed a crime, in broad daylight, and lived to tell about it, unharmed by police officers.

Now, let’s look at another incident: This month, in McKinney, TX, a young teen of color said she invited her friends over to her community pool for some summer fun.

According to CNN, the incident began when two white women at a community pool told a group of teens of color that they should “return to their section 8 homes”.  At the time of the incident, there were white teens present at the pool too, but they were not told to leave.

911 was called, and according to witnesses,  Eric Casebolt, the police officer who reported to the scene, immediately targeted the teens of color. According to a video shot during the incident, this armed, unprovoked police officer shoved a swimsuit-clad fourteen-year-old,  African-American girl to the ground and then pinned her down by kneeling on her back. The video then shows Officer Casebolt draw his weapon on the fourteen-year-old’s unarmed friends because they asked the officer to move off of the fourteen-year-old’s back.

casebolt9n-2-webThe video that was shot by one of the white teens present shows the police officer completely ignoring the white teens but screaming and cursing at the teens of color. The white teen who shot the footage has been quoted as saying he felt “invisible” the whole time.

It’s easy to feel invisible when you’re white. Your motives, as a child and as an adult, are rarely questioned. If you’re a white man, you could be shooting at cops and not feel any worry. But, if you’re a bikini-clad fourteen-year-old person of color, you could be afraid that your mere presence somewhere will be seen as a “threat.”

The way these two incidents were handled sets a precedent for how we currently respond to skin color in this country. White people who kill are treated with humanity. People of color who are minding their own business are treated as “threats”.  The young girl from McKinney was clearly not a threat, and yet a grown man allegedly felt the need to pin her down with the full weight of his knees on her back.

Was it this young girl’s fault that she was born with a skin color that attracts negative attention from closed-minded people and strikes fear in the hearts of grown, armed men?

We can’t claim not to see color. Instead, we can say that we are all different, and that differences should be embraced and treated with respect. We can stand in solidarity with our fellow human beings and raise awareness about what is wrong in the world. But, no one is allowed to pretend that racism does not exist. Injustices need to be acknowledged. That’s the only way we will grow as human beings.

 

Editor’s Note: After this article was completed, Eric Casebolt resigned. His lawyer has released a statement indicating that the situation was complicated by the fact that he was under emotional duress at the time of the incident having had responded to two suicide calls just prior to arriving at the pool party. For more information on this developing story, click here