Martese Johnson: “Why Does This Keep Happening?”

The Huffington Post reports that:

[Martese] Johnson was standing near the Trinity Irish Pub around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Watkins said, when “an employee of the establishment approached him and asked for his license.”

The employee quizzed Johnson about his zip code, and Johnson provided his mother’s current zip code, Watkins said. The number is different from the one listed on his current Illinois license. Watkins said that at that point, Virginia ABC agents questioned Johnson about being in possession of false identification.

Johnson is originally from Chicago, where his mother still lives. He was never in possession of a fake ID, Watkins said.

The Virginia ABC agents then forced Johnson to the ground, where they handcuffed him while “his face and skull [were] bleeding and needing surgery, all of this over two alleged offenses,” Watkins said.

Virginia ABC declined to comment further about the incident to The Huffington Post on Thursday. Trinity Irish Pub told HuffPost it had no comment. Watkins declined to take questions Thursday.

“I’m shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement just across the street from where I go to school,” Johnson said in a statement, read by Watkins. As Johnson was on the ground, he added, “One thought raced through my mind: How could this happen? I still believe in our community. I know this community will support me during this time.”

UVA students marched on campus Wednesday night and Thursday in protest of what they believe was excessive force used by Virginia ABC agents. Johnson has asked for activists to remain civil in their protests.

A couple of days ago, my daughter and I were watching Martese Johnson’s story on the Today Show. While watching the news segment, my daughter asked me, “Why does this keeps happening?” When a Staten Island police officer choked Eric Garner death, she asked the same question. Both times, I was rendered speechless. Her question was simple, yet profound. Today, in this blog post, I will try to explain why this keeps happening.

It keeps happening because America fears and hates the black man. We are perceived as a menace to society. It does not matter if one is an honor student like Martese Johnson at a prestigious university. The news constantly shows African American men and women as wanted or arrested violent, criminal suspects. When we turn on the radio or watch television, the black man is depicted as a gun toting, pants sagging, drug dealing, hyper sexual, thuggish animal plaguing society.

Consequently, our black skin is presumed to be a badge of criminality. Often, our historical greatness as people is blotted, negated or forgotten. When police see a black man or women, they do not see a fellow human being. They see a subhuman beast that must be subdued or killed. In the eyes of dominant culture, our lives simply do not matter.

In fact, as Tupac Shakur says in this song Changes, if you kill a black man, you are considered to be a hero. People will ask for your autograph and want to take a photo with you. If you’re a police officer, you will get a paid vacation for doing the American people a service by killing or hurting a black man. News networks will pay you top dollar to tell them your story.
Unfortunately, there will be more cases of police brutality like Martese Johnson’s case because not enough people are truly concerned about the issue. Sure, our people will get amped up and march around for a minute. The hand picked Negro spokespeople will fight for the television spotlight. Eventually, the story will die down. Then, it is business as usual until the next brother or sister is beaten or killed. Then, the cycle will repeat itself. Meanwhile, the racist police power structure will remain intact and fully operational.


[Originally posted at New Possibilities]