A National Matter: Why Trump’s Silence on Sacramento Speaks Volumes.

A National Matter: Why Trump’s Silence on Sacramento Speaks Volumes.

Overview

 

For a man who cannot stop talking on Twitter about every single thought that pops into his head, Donald Trump’s silence on the killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento says all you need to know about how the President of the United States of America views the death of young black men.

Frankly, I do not care if the president disagrees with the family’s version of events on that fateful night. I do not really care if the president holds a contrary position to the thousands of protesters in streets all over the country who believe Clark was unnecessarily gunned down by two fear stricken police officers. I do not even care if Trump believes that this man was a convicted felon in the act of vandalism and robbery who got what he deserved. If the president wants to admonish Clark’s behavior and champion the heroic response of the Sacramento Police Department, that is fine; after-all, he is entitled to his own opinions, interpretation of facts, and principles when it comes to defining the goals of criminal justice.

But the president cannot be silent. To simply wave the death of Stephon Clark off as a “local matter” is not only a cheap and cowardly position for one of the nation’s most influential spokespersons to take, it is also a mind boggling display of callousness towards the family members, the police force in Sacramento, the citizens of California’s capital, and anyone who has ever been caught in the crossfire of crime.

Let me clear. One need not be a social activist to care about the pain and suffering of police who are now in more danger than ever before. Likewise, one need not be a member of a police department to know the pain and suffering that comes with the loss of a family member. 22 year old Stephon Clark had two sons. Two toddlers will never see their dad again.

 

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Furthermore, one does not need to be on one side or the other to empathize with professionals who put their lives at risk every single day to uphold the law and serve the public good. Just as one does not need to be on a side to understand the extent of a man’s personal tragedy. Clark’s sister died at birth. A 16-year-old brother was killed in a shooting in 2006. (De’Markus McKinnie died from what was ruled an accidental shotgun wound to the abdomen.) And Clark had a criminal history, four cases in four years that included charges of robbery, pimping, and domestic abuse. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Sacramento County court files show he pleaded no contest to reduced charges, spent time on a sheriff’s work detail and was on probation for the 2014 robbery when he was killed.”

The time for taking sides is over. So is the time for silence in the wake of a national problem.

Speaking directly at you Mr Trump, you cannot remain silent. Those 6 bullets in Clark’s back were not silent. They carried the winds of permanence. The police officer’s audio camera was not as silent as they thought it was. The whole world knows what they did not want us to hear. And the cries of people in the streets will never be silenced by those who say they do not have a right to grieve, or that they are being disrespectful to law enforcement. The questions will not be silenced so easily. As one protester on TV pleaded to know, “Why didn’t you shoot him in the arm? Shoot him in the legs? Send in dogs? Send in a Taser? Why? Why?”  Finally, the video of the encounter showing officers shouting “gun, gun, gun” before opening fire, will never silence the truth that they found no weapon, just a cellphone belonging to Clark.

Mr. Trump, you have something to say about everything. You comment on the looks of actresses and the ratings of Saturday Night Live. Why can’t you make a substantial comment on a family’s dead son?  You meddle in the affairs of companies like Amazon but do not have the courtesy to make a dignified address about the complexities of policing in the 21st century. Your silence is deafeningly revealing.  

 

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George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer and domestic violence counselor. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.