Why Doesn’t A Jury Of My Peers Care About My Fear For My Life?

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A jury has decided Officer Betty Shelby was justified in shooting Terence Crutcher, an unarmed man, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But, what I don’t understand is how they came to that verdict when it’s unclear why she perceived a threat when the other more experience officers around her did not? 
After all, she is trained to asses situations. She claims she opened fire on a man with hands in the air, his back turned and who was walking away and not advancing towards her because she thought he had a gun. Why was she the only one at the scene who thought that? Why can’t we admit that perhaps the sight of a large black man, far bigger than herself, who was not obedient was enough of a threat for her to kill?  
When I was young, I was taught to respect police officers, to answer their questions respectful and follow their instructions. If I did, I’d be just fine. I believed that because my uncle John was a career officer and my father had attended the police academy. I figured neither of them would give me bad advice about safety. Yet, a string of events that have made headlines have made me question this advice.  
The acquittal of Officer Shelby shakes the foundation of everything I thought I knew about police survival. Now, I can only hope that by doing four things, I will live to see another day following a police encounter.  They are complying with and officer’s request; Hands up and open so it’s clear I have no weapon; make sure someone is recording the incident, if possible; and don’t turn my back or walk away unless instructed to do so. The fifth thing is to pray.  
If I am unsuccessful, I’m not certain my family will get justice. Crutcher and others like him aren’t able to get up on witness stand to talk about his fears or thoughts before their death. Meantime, Officer Shelby got to tell the jury that she shot him because she feared for her life. She now she gets to go home to hug her family and friends while his family does not.  Where’s the justice in that? 
Still, I’m not angry. I just wonder why a jury of my peers doesn’t consider the fear citizens have for their lives during a police stop? What will it take for them to do so? I can only hope that more people don’t take matters into their own hands because they don’t believe their loved ones will get justice in a courtroom? Perhaps, someone will finally find a way to try civilians and police officers how survive when they come in contact so no one reacts out of fear?

Era of Hidden Racism

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I packed the sweaters into my Eco-friendly reusable bags, hopped into my fuel-efficient car and motored to the Jos A. Banks store in Clifton to exchange three sweaters I got at s good deal from the retailer’s online store for my fiancé. Two seconds after the chimes signaling that I’d entered, I wished I’d just sent then back through the mail. I’d purchased them because in my haste to do laundry after a long week at work I didn’t notice he’d placed cashmere and wool blend sweaters in the basket. The mistake became apparent when I transferred the clothing to the dryers and saw sweaters were now only large enough to fit my fiancé’s 9-year-old son. So when I saw the 70 percent off sale at Jos A. Banks online, I jumped at the chance to make amends. I logged on to PayPal, completed my nearly 200 dollar order for seven sweaters and waited for the packages to arrive.

Unfortunately, the half zip sweaters, which were ordered in the same size as the V-Neck didn’t fit. Therefore, I decided to exchange them for a large size. Two white men turned around when I strolled into the Jos A. Banks location on Route 3 in Clifton early on Saturday morning. The older gentleman smiled but walked away, over to a white man looking to purchase a suit. The short younger man with black hair, glass and a stout bill brushed passed me and stood behind the previously unattended registered. “How can I help you?” The sales associate asked as his eyes scanned my body. “I called the Jos A. Banks 800 number and was told I can exchange online purchases at the store so here I am,” I said with a smile. Then, I began opening the bag I removed from my shoulder with the sweaters. “Do you have a receipt?” He asked, failing to look directly at me. “I have the e-receipt I got when I made the purchase and the PayPal receipt.” “Those aren’t real receipts,” he snapped. “Jos A. Banks doesn’t have the best online security so those could easily be fake. I’ve seen that a lot from some people in this area.” “Excuse me,” I said, stunned by his accusation. “I purchased these sweaters and came here to exchange them, that’s all.” “Well you have to understand, in this area we get certain people who shop lift merchandise and then return it for the cash which is why we need receipts. You know what people I’m talking about, I’m sure.” “I’m showing you a legitimate order number you can look up on your computer,” I stammered. “But you know what, l can exchange the sweaters through the website instead.” I went to grab the sweaters off the counter and noticed his hand was on the other side. He tugged and pulled them to him then turned his back. “What’s that order number?” He asked. I blurted out the order number, glancing back at the other sales associate wondering if he was going to interject. Rather, he pretended he couldn’t hear our exchange. “I see the order here,” the sales associate said appearing to be surprised. “The only thing I can do for you is exchange the sweaters by printing out a ups label. We don’t have these sweaters in the store so you will have to send these back and re-order the larger size.” Like I want to spend money here, I thought. “Well, I’ve already packaged these up,” he continued. “If you will hand over your card I’ll order the new ones. I’ll try to keep the price the same.” I didn’t want to give him my card but I felt as if I didn’t he wouldn’t believe that I could afford to shop at the store. So reluctantly I handed it over. The sales associate passed over the receipt and I neatly tucked it away. All I wanted to do was leave when he once again explained how I should understand the types of people living in nearby towns who steal and why he had to ask so many questions and be so careful. Does he really think I’m going to condone this behavior? I thought. I noticed the white man who was in the store at the same time as me was not regaled with the same story.  I squirmed uncomfortably, desperately holding my tongue so I didn’t play into his idea of typical black behavior by acting angry. I did interject though. “You know I work for ABC and we investigate crimes all the time, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for these thieves.” The shock on his face was priceless. I smiled and turned to walk away. “Just call me when my sweaters come in,” I said as I walked out the door, satisfied that I shattered his image of the young black girl who he presumed came in to scam him. #racism #BlackLivesMatter #JosABanks

About the Author:

Nika C. Beamon is the author of the memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House.   She also wrote the 2009 well-received book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married (Chicago Review Press). She is a working journalist in New York