A post by Peter Jordens.
In a recent article titled ‘When do NYPD officers face consequences for alleged brutality?’ (City & State, June 9, 2020), Rebecca C. Lewis discusses eight high-profile cases of (alleged) police brutality in the New York City area between 1997 and 2018 and the extent to which they have led to punishment for the NYPD officers involved. The article does not mention that five of these eight cases concern men who were or are of Caribbean heritage.
As both the American police and the American news media in general rarely highlight the possible immigrant background of subjects defined as black,1 it is difficult to arrive at a comprehensive list of black Caribbean-Americans who have been severely injured or killed by police officers on the US mainland and who have become the focus of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Such a list would include at least the five cases from 1997-2018 mentioned in Lewis’ above-cited article as well as one newer case (2018):
- Haitian-born Abner Louima (30) was beaten, tortured, and sexually assaulted by several police officers after being arrested outside a night club in Brooklyn, NY in 1997.
- US-born Haitian-American Patrick Dorismond (26) was fatally shot by an undercover police officer in a scuffle outside a cocktail lounge in Manhattan, NY in 2000.
- Jamaican-born Ramarley Graham (18) was shot and killed by a police officer in his apartment in the Bronx, NY in 2012.
- Thomas (USVI)-born Akai Gurley (28) was shot by a patrolling police officer in the stairwell of the housing complex where he lived in Brooklyn, NY in 2014.
- Jamaican-born Saheed Vassell (34) was shot and killed by four police officers on a street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY in 2018.
- Lucian-born Botham Jean (26) was shot and killed in his own apartment by an off-duty police officer in Dallas, TX in 2018. See our previous post Young man killed by Dallas police officer in his apartment is St. Lucian native.
The above (likely incomplete) list of six Caribbean-American names is provided in the spirit of the #SayTheirNames campaign in the USA to memorialize people while focusing on their humanity and not just their victimhood.
1 In the 1972 article ‘Black Immigrants: The Experience of Invisibility and Inequality’ (Journal of Black Studies 3(1) September 1972: 29-56), Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte felt the need to debunk the “widespread, overly simplistic, monolithic stereotype that held sway about all blacks in the United States being one and the same on the basis of their race.” It appears that, 48 years later, not much has changed in this regard in the USA.