Dear Mr. Rogers

Bianka Bell

Over the past couple of days, reports have resurfaced of a June 22, 2016 police crime in Atlanta, Georgia, which resulted in the unwarranted murder of 22-year-old Deravis Rogers. Suspicion that Rogers was guilty of crime, which in turn, lead him to be shot, was consistent of practically every media account of the incident. This presumption allowed for a range of speculation by the public in regard to whether or not his murder was justified.

Again. Speculation.

Because it is apparently so incredibly difficult to believe that an officer could have killed an innocent young black man. As if it had never happened before. As if it isn’t a regular occurrence that is being widely protested nationwide. As if race isn’t a factor. As if it’s easier to just concoct some sort of absurd justification for why this sort of injustice ensues, rather than acknowledging that our country is in crisis.

The genocide of the black community by law enforcement under the perilously ambiguous terms of United States Law may be a hard pill for non-black people to swallow. But persisting with this sort of resistance is only going to further enable the killing of black persons in America (and, due to our strong ‘Western’ social influence, potentially globally).

According to Rogers’ killer, off-duty officer James R. Burns (whose identity wasn’t even released in original reports of the incident), someone had been seen breaking into a vehicle by an off-duty officer who called for backup. Burns, arriving at the scene after the call, posited that he had observed Rogers fleeing away, prompting him to fire his weapon. However, not long after his account, it was revealed that Burns’ testimony was not consistent with the details of the shooting. Burns was fired on July 1st by Atlanta’s Chief of Police George N. Turner, claiming that he had violated departmental procedures and that the shooting was an unnecessary and excessive use of force.

He was clearly in the wrong. He is a murderer. And yet, there are still no charges being brought against him. Yet, many people would still rather not acknowledge the truth.

In fact, one of the first videos of the account that surfaced was entitled “Man escaping from scene of car break-in is killed by Atlanta police”. Now, while I’m no linguist, I do I understand the crucial nature of semantics when attempting to provoke human emotion. A title such as this one – without any other details about the case – makes me, as a reader, believe at least two things:

  • That this man has committed at least a minor crime, and was guilty by virtue of his inclination to “escape”, and
  • The murder of this man could have been for a particular reason.

Additionally, a more recent written report from July 12th which fully acknowledged that “Burns’ actions that night were found to be unwarranted” ALSO felt the need to point out that Burns “has no record of prior disciplinary actions”, while Rogers “has a troubled past that includes encounters and arrests with law enforcement. In 2014, he was convicted of two counts of entering autos and sentenced. In addition, he has faced previous charges of entering auto and drug charges, according to court records.”

Even when black people are innocent under circumstances of injustice that have ensued against them, they are still – in some way, shape or form – portrayed as menaces to society by the media; whether that be done through the choice of photo provided when such crimes are publicly reported, or the manner their unofficially eulogies are composed. And this is why, on behalf of everyone who refuses to acknowledge this problem, I proclaim in sorrow:

 

Dear Deravis Rogers,

Alton Sterling,

Philandro Castil,

Sandra Bland,

Trayvon Martin,

Tamir Rice,

And the countless other black persons taken by not “senseless”, but premeditated violence:

 

I am sorry you had to be taken from your loved ones so soon.

I am sorry that the color of your skin made you the target of an inherently oppressive system.

I am sorry that you never stood a fighting chance.

I am sorry this had to be your fate.

I am sorry that this has been the fate of so many other black people, and will most likely to be for quite some time.

I am sorry that even as a victim, they still try to paint you as a villain.

And I am sorry that all I can do is raise my voice to those who do not want to hear me.

I am so, so sorry.

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