A few years ago, I wrote a blog titled, “The Inconvenient Victim,” about a young Black man named Stephon Clark. Stephon Clark was a 22-year-old Black man who was killed in the back of his grandmother’s home by the Sacramento police. Clark’s name instantly became yet another name in the long list of Black men, women and children who have been killed by the police. As news of Clark’s death spread throughout the nation, so did revelations of the disparaging comments he made about Black women. I labeled Clark the inconvenient victim. While many people disagreed with me, I stood firm — I do not get to choose the victim when fighting injustice. Every victim of police brutality will not be a perfect victim.
And so we find ourselves with Jonathan Price, a 31-year-old Black man, killed by Shaun Lucas, a 22-year-old white officer who had only been on the police force for six months before the fatal encounter with Price. According to The Washington Post, Jonathan was trying to break up a fight at the Kwik Chek, a local convenience store in Texas. Officers received a call about a “possible fight in progress.” Eyewitnesses said, “When Lucas arrived around 8:24 p.m., Price offered a handshake and asked him multiple times, ‘You doing good?’” according to a publicly released affidavit written by Texas Ranger investigator Laura Simmons. Price apologized for broken glass on the ground (presumably from a bottle of juice Price dropped), saying that someone tried to “wrap me up.” Lucas told the investigator that he believed Price was intoxicated. According to the affidavit, he tried to detain him, and Price responded, “I can’t be detained” and resisted, prompting Lucas to pull out his Taser. While being Tased, Price continued to walk toward Officer Lucas,” Simmons wrote. “Price appeared to reach out and grab the end of Officer Lucas’ Taser.” Lucas fired his gun four times, Simmons wrote, hitting Price in the upper torso. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.”
In minutes Jonathan Price’s name joined the chorus of names shouted worldwide as America faces a racial pandemic.
I immediately shared the information about Jonathan’s murder, and as with any Black death, his past will always come out. As we heard from his friends and family in the community, Price undoubtedly seemed like a nice, young man who never had any legal issues. He appeared to be very focused on fitness and working with others to achieve their fitness and personal life goals. According to reports, “Jonathan took a job with Wolfe City in maintenance after moving back to the area from Dallas to help his mother. In his free time, the former college football player was a personal trainer, trained for fitness competitions and spent most of his time with family,” said Lee Merritt, the Price family attorney. “Jonathan was a small-city guy. He spent most of his days with sort of his adopted family,” Merritt said. “That’s where he would lay his head at night, which was a white family.” Many in the community described the 31-year-old as a “hometown hero.” Seemingly, Jonathan is the “perfect victim” in America’s eyes.
However, as people started to comb through Jonathan’s social media, they found several posts that he made regarding the protests surrounding the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Jonathan speaks about his personal experiences with white people, white officers and his addiction to white women. He talks about the many times he should have been detained for various traffic infractions and never was, even in a town that he says people consider to be very racist. He challenges people not to forget about their own experiences with the police. Jonathan also speaks about the current protests and how the protests and aggressive rioting are fanning the flames. He also called protesters dummies. Finally, Jonathan states, “All of this race shit makes him want to vomit and that it is not going anywhere.”
I took a deep sigh after reading Jonathan’s posts.
There are many Black people, often those who have received a level of economic comfort and social status according to white standards, who believe if Black people are just “good enough,” they will not have to deal with racism and police brutality. However, you will not good deed yourself out of racism. You will not “good person” your way out of racism. You will not excel your way out of racism. You will not educate yourself out of racism. You will not comply yourself out of racism. You will not codeswitch your way of out racism.
It. Will. Not. Happen.
No matter how many good deeds you do, you are a Black person, and in America, that is enough for a police officer to kill you with no regard.
You will not avoid racism and police brutality by:
Having an Ivy League education.
Having a college degree.
Offering an officer a handshake.
Praying with an officer.
Hugging an officer.
Dancing with an officer.
Living in a nice neighborhood.
Reasoning with an officer.
Wearing a belt/ Not sagging your pants.
Having a well-paying job.
Dating a white woman.
Dating a white man.
Having biracial children.
Having white friends.
Attending social events held by white people.
Doing good deeds in the community.
Being raised in a two-parent home.
Speaking out online about inner-city crime.
Adding the phrase “Black on Black crime” to your narrative about the state of Black people in America.
Speaking about your love of the police.
Claiming you never experienced racial profiling.
Wearing a MAGA hat.
Being a police officer.
Being friends with well to do white people.
Driving a nice car.
Abiding by all the laws.
No level of respectability will combat racism and police brutality. Unfortunately, Jonathan paid the ultimate price to learn this lesson. By all accounts, Jonathan offered the officer a handshake several times, even apologizing to him for the broken glass, and still, Jonathan was shot and killed.
We will not “good deeds” or “good person” our way out of racism. We must fight and resist our way out of racism. We must challenge systems. We must tear down in order to rebuild something new. The people who are in the streets demanding justice are demanding it for all Black people. We understand whether you are a Black man or a Black woman, you can be a victim of police brutality. We understand whether you have a GED or a Ph.D., you can be a victim of police brutality. We understand if you wear jeans that sag to your knees or a tailor-made, three-piece suit, you can be a victim of police brutality. Do not let your proximity to whiteness and good deeds fool you.
As Jay-Z so eloquently put it in his song, “The Story of O.J.”:
“Light n*gga, dark n*gga, faux n*gga, real n*gga
Rich n*gga, poor n*gga, house n*gga, field n*gga
Still n*gga, still n*gga…”
And if you ever forget it, rest assured this world will always remind you.
Hannah L. Drake is an author, poet and spoken word artist. Follow her at writesomeshit.com and on Twitter at hannahdrake628.