Before last weekend I had never heard of the town of McKinney, Texas. Now, until the moment I breathe my last, the word ‘McKinney’ will always bring a rush of blood to my head and tears to my eyes.
A video that was posted to YouTube by a white teenager shows an enraged white police officer screaming at a group of black children in bathing suits, forcing them to sit on the ground and telling them to “shut up”. Which is in itself horrible. No adult in their right mind has the right to treat children in such a humiliating way.
Video: Cops crash pool party. Source: 7+2 Channel/YouTube
However, what takes the footage from the realm of merely disturbing to jaw-droppingly horrendous was seeing the same policeman manhandle a black girl in a bikini, throw her on the ground, place his knee on her small back and cuff her. All the while she cries and calls for her mother. If you think that's the worst of it, you'd be wrong.
When a group of her friends saw her distress and tried to come to her rescue, the madman pulled out his firearm, cocked it and pointed it in their direction.
“Oh no, I silently screamed, please don’t shoot them in the back”! For a second I thought I would see more black men get killed right on camera. Thankfully, he didn't pull the trigger and simply went back to berating the children sitting in the grass.
If you’ve followed the news, you’ll know that this incident is simply the latest one in an anus horribilis (horrible year) for black people in the United States.
Sadly, however, black people getting mistreated, unjustly jailed and shot like dogs is par for the course as it pertains to their treatment by their government’s law enforcement from time immemorial. What gets my goat is that instead of dealing with their country’s own issues I see congressmen and women discuss countries that they have never visited and know nothing of. Just last month a congressional subcommittee met to discuss Rwanda’s human rights issues. The proceedings were a joke and so were the witnesses called.
Only a few days ago, the US Justice Department brought FIFA boss Sepp Blatter’s world crashing down, charging many of his minions with corruption and racketeering. To date, we don't know if there will be a World Cup football tournament in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
Mind you, I’m not saying that FIFA’s corruption didn't need to be exposed; far from it. However, I must ask, if the US justice department has so many resources to fight corruption around the world, then why don't they use some of that money to tackle systemic racism and corruption in their own backyard?
Watching the news, you’d think that police violence is a twenty-first century issue. That would be the furthest thing from the truth. The only difference now is that eyewitnesses are catching the incidents on camera. Which brings me to the question, how has police training evolved in the social media age? Especially our own national police right here in Rwanda.
Where before a single incident could be relegated to memory and an errant police officer labeled a ‘bad apple’, these days a single event can destroy public goodwill and trust. I’ve had the chance to chat with the National Police’s top leadership about social media’s ability to tar the good name of the institution; they too see the risk in an ugly incident going viral. It is, therefore, incumbent upon police to acknowledge this new reality. A reality where a few incidents can make police the enemy in people’s eyes; I don't think we want to live in a country where people flee at the sight of a police officer whether or not they have committed a crime.
The writer is a journalist.