The Cop in Starbucks: We Have to Kill You

He didn’t have to ask, but I suppose as one the most hated people in Black America currently, the white officer felt the need to try to win a table of Black folks in a Los Angeles Starbucks over to his side. “What’s a step in the right direction?” left his mouth with such ease and found its way, unwelcomed, into a conversation between friends; all who were now side-eyeing. “Damnit,” I thought, thinking we may have been talking too loud about the direction we wish the movement would shift. “We have to kill you,” came from my mouth just as easily, “then kill your partner and your captain and your dog.” He didn’t respond, just stood frozen, unsure if it was a threat since, after all, we were sitting at the high table, minding our own business, talking Evolution.

With his caramel macchiato in hand, he dashed for the door, moving through the parking lot like Yelene Lashmanova. I chuckled with my friends, secretly thinking he was headed for his patrol car to get his shotgun to come back in for me, turning Starbucks into a scene from Pulp Fiction. He drove away, and never returned, and I had to retell the story to our neighboring table who took it with the same grain of salt as the officer.

What’s the problem, though? I was serious. There is no shortage of prayer, and CNN and all the doppelgangers have yet to run out of those who love to hear themselves talk. Where are the rebellious ones? Where’s Nat? Toussaint? Where are the writers to change the narrative? Where are the producers and agents to make sure these writers are heard? Where are the so-called good cops to protect the good people who are ready to do something that may actually work? I’m loving the protesting, and the burning of cities, and I strongly encourage the continuation of it all, but I want more. I want to prove I was right to those students I told “there is no revolution without proper bloodshed.” I want President Barack Obama, the “weak apologist for tyranny,” to call the murderers what they are and stop providing a black face for white supremacy. I am not a thug, B.O., and what Minister Farrakhan said has probably fallen on deaf ears, so I hope their eyes read this:

You’ve ordered the death of all Black folks who are ready to fight the system you so proudly protect. The system that accidentally slipped its foot off our Black necks long enough for us to rise up and regain our voice. With my raspy voice, I say, “Fuck you,” with a not-so-sunny disposition.

Nate and Toussaint live in Baltimore, Detroit, LA, Oakland, Charlottesville, Miami, and Madison. They are everywhere, but until they know their sacrifices won’t be followed only by a “damn, them niggas crazy,” from the fools who only react when the cause pops up in Hip Hop, or from the fools who only show their faces and fists when the mistreatment involves them directly, Turner and L’Ouverture will blend into the crowd. “No sense in dying for a few double taps on Instagram,” I said. They agreed.

I wish the cop would have come back to finish the conversation. I’d tell him, “Because if we kill you and your boys in blue, we can at least get a conversation going. They will want to hear our stories then, and the why will be so important. When Omar Thornton told his mother, “I killed five racists,” I wanted to call those folks who invited me to Cuba and tell them we were winning. I wanted to head north to help him get out of that building alive. Quickly, I watched the news do their job, turning Thornton into a crazy Black man, and I watched everyone stop giving a shit. It was a sobering reminder of the time Officer Santiago and Mayor Golden of Daytona Beach, FL changed their story and there was nothing I could do.

Listen. I just want to have the conversation, and since we’ve exhausted all other possibilities, I’m simply offering another.

(photo taken by Darnell Lamont Walker in Ferguson. Not in an LA Starbucks)

2 thoughts on “The Cop in Starbucks: We Have to Kill You

  1. I love your writing and your point of view. As usual, you hit this nail on the head. There needs to be a widespread effort of law enforcement engagement with citizens that transcends the cop on the street. That one small step from a cop is insufficient and won’t be well-received when five minutes later we’re seeing a new incident of an unjustified use of excessive force and abuse of authority. It doesn’t matter whether it happened down the street or 500 miles away, the pain of it is still the same. Rogue cops abusing their authority needs to stop. Additionally, a well trained and aware officer should easily be able to tell from the context, body language, and your tone whether your “kill you” comment or the “kill your partner” comment was a real threat or intellectual banter, the latter being what you were giving. (side note: I wonder if radioed to have a plain clothes officer in an unmarked car circle around to watch you.) You know, rather than the empty, seemingly phony “step in the right direction” this cop was trying to make, he would have made more ground had he stayed behind for a few minutes and had some healthy dialogue with you guys and listened to you talk about why the black community distrusts cops, not just in L.A. but across the country. Missed opportunity. Sure he meant well (maybe) and in some cases, just one lone soul can make an enormous difference in effecting the right kind of change. But the problems with police misconduct has been so pervasive for decades (centuries), that unless those efforts of outreach are orchestrated from the police departments as a whole from the top down rather than from one cop trying to make a difference on his own, the gains will be very minimal.

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