The stories about Mike Brown in Fergusson, Missouri and John Crawford in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek Ohio horrify me and sicken me and leave me close to tears. Two innocent young black men, one walking down a street and another shopping in a Wal-Mart gunned down by trigger-happy policemen.
Mike Brown made a small mistake--he mouthed off to an officer in a police car who gave him a profanity-laced to not walk in the middle of the street. According to witnesses, after some type of altercation at the police car, Mike then walked away and the policeman started firing. Mike was hit, turned and put his arms in the air to surrender, and was shot several more times. He was murdered for walking while black, murdered at the age of 19.
John Crawford made a small mistake. He picked up a BB gun in Wal-Mart and was walking around the store with it as he spoke on a cell phone. He was murdered for shopping while black, murdered at the age of 22.
And these are just two stories of maybe the hundreds that happen every year that we don’t hear about. Every day, police far exceed their authority with their use of deadly force.
When the discussion on Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 329, which aired on September 19, 2014, turned to Fergusson and other fatalities of innocent black males at the hands of the police, Wendell, an actor who currently plays a corrupted parole officer on Showtime’s Ray Donovan and who previously appeared in HBO’s Treme, told a personal story that made the issue vivid.
Pierce reported that he was in Louisiana driving to his uncle’s funeral dressed in a suit and tie with his two toddler nephews in the back seat. He was pulled over by a police car. (He doesn’t say why.) He said, “This is the moment that strikes terror into the heart of a black man. He knows he could be killed.”
Whenever Pierce is pulled over, he always immediately places his wallet on the dashboard because if he reached into his pocket for his wallet in front of the policeman the police man might think he was going for a gun. Piece pulled over, put his wallet on the dashboard, and waited for the policeman to come to the window of the car. That is exactly what you are supposed to do when pulled over.
He had been waiting for several minutes for the policeman to come to the car door, when he happened to notice in his rear view mirror the policeman in his car, pointing his gun, looking really angry, and looking like he was shouting. Pierce couldn’t hear what the officer was saying because it was a very hot day. and he had his windows rolled up and the air-conditioning running. When he rolled down the window, he could hear the office shouting, “ Get out of the car (expletive) or I’m going to kill you.“
Pierce and the two little kids didn’t die that day, but they came close just because the officer was so poorly trained he didn’t know how to handle the situation. (For instance, he could have used the public address system in the police car.)
Wendell Pierce concluded, “I can’t believe in a post-racial America. As a black man, it would put my life in danger.”
Watch the video of Wendell Pierce telling this story.
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Bill Maher's Guests #329, September 19, 2014
General Colin Powell: Four-star general, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the former Secretary of State. He is the author of several books. His most recent book is It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership
Matthew Segal: media commentator and political activist. He is the co-founder and president of Our Time, a nationwide non-profit network of young Americans promoting economic and voter empowerment
Representative Jack Kingston (R, GA)
Joan Walsh: Editor-at-large of Salon.com, political commentator on MSNBC, and the author of several books including, What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was
Wendell Pierce: Actor, who currently plays a corrupted parole officer on Showtime’s Ray Donovan and who previously appeared in HBO’s Treme