Another notification in the news about a black man killed by the police. Murdered out of the most innocent and vulnerable places the human body exists in; sleep. But as I was reading this story that exists every day in this country— where we’ve progressed from slavery to Jim Crow to police executions, I was reminded of a case that happened a few decades ago… The murder of the great revolutionary Panther, Fred Hampton. This reminded me of the tale I read in Jeffrey Has’ novel The Assassination of Fred Hampton. And so I went to the details of both cases and decided to start this comparison.
In 1969 a police raid took place in an apartment where Fred Hampton and his pregnant girlfriend were sleeping. The warrant was for suspected “firearms” and so the police with 90 bullets executed Hampton. The orders were from the FBI as part of a “secret program to neutralize and destroy the Black Panther Party, which FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover privately called ‘the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.’” Hampton was sleeping next to his pregnant girlfriend when the bullets ripped through his body. I guess giving free breakfast to kids was worthy of all ninety shots.
Amir Locke only 22 years old was murdered this week by police officers executing a “no-knock warrant.” Apparently, Locke was holding a gun under the blankets of his sleeping form; apparently, the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply to those whom the Constitution first considered 3/5th of a human. You see, I believe all of us don’t really have a right to bear arms in this country because if one does, and he’s non-white, it guarantees his execution. Where’s the NRA when you really need them? Oh, and did I forget to mention that it wasn’t even Locke who they were looking for? 9 seconds is all it took for a sleeping Locke to become the newest victim of our white supremacist system.
Something about the fact that both of these men were sleeping is what really gets to me. I think this is an even more violent relation of W.E.B. Dubois’ theory of Double Consciousness. That not only must the black man in this country be “‘always looking at oneself through the eye’ of a racist white society and ‘measuring oneself by the means of a nation that looked back in contempt…’” But he must also be wary of who is looking at him in a dreaming state. There is no escape from the reality of white supremacy in this country for the black American. Even when one can seemingly escape reality into a fantastical realm of dream and REM cycles, America’s true colors will still be murdering and executing.
Fred Hampton was a threat in the eyes of the FBI. You know, the whole free breakfast and anti-racism thing that was so bad in their minds. But concerningly this country’s police-state has evolutionized to literally murdering any black man. This proves that to be Black person in this country means one’s Black existence is inherently political and socially determining. That even if you are not a revolutionary, you are still deemed dangerous in the eyes of our police. That existing as a Black person in this country is concerning enough for our state to take action. We say there is progress but then this happens.
I draw the connection here today for the white liberals who are so shocked by this incident. This is not a historically new phenomenon and it never will be if we continue to uphold this system in this country. Black men will continue to be murdered, even in their sleep, and we will continue to be surprised and upset, but retreat back to the same privileges that we as white people benefit. Until there is a revolution and systemic change, there will be more Fred Hampton’s and Amir Locke’s and soon we’ll find out what name is next.
Reuters. “Amir Locke Shooting: Hundreds Protest in Minneapolis after Police Killing of Black Man.” The Guardian, 6 Feb. 2022. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/06/amir-locke-police-shooting-hundreds-protest-minneapolis.
Roos, Dave. “The 1969 Raid That Killed Black Panther Leader Fred Hampton.” HISTORY, https://www.history.com/news/black-panther-fred-hampton-killing. Accessed 7 Feb. 2022.
W. E. B. Du Bois on Black “Double-Consciousness” – The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1897/08/strivings-of-the-negro-people/305446/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2022.