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If You’re Unarmed, Not Resisting, With Your Hands Up, You’ll Still Be Shot When You’re Black

Police officer shoots Black therapist after he tried to help his autistic patient.

Typically, after police officers discharge their weapons and are, subsequently, bombarded with questions about the motives behind using excessive force against a black suspect, the officers in question will make some attempt to rationalize their actions.

Most of them you may have heard before:

“He resisted arrest.”

“I felt like my life was threatened.”

“He was reaching for his gun.”

“He made a threatening gesture.”


However, this evening, an incident occurred out of Florida that just may have many a sharp and intelligent person thinking, justifiably, that we’re reaching a point in this centuries-long struggle with police brutality where no explanation at all on the part of officers is needed. That we, as a society, are beyond that now. That we’re but a step away from officers admitting, with all the frankness they can muster, “I shot this person because he was black.”

On Wednesday, about two weeks after police officers killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, new video footage surfaced online of another incident of police brutality.

This time, the victim was Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist working at an assisted living home in North Miami. He was trying to calm down an autistic patient who had escaped from the home.

According to WSVN, police rushed to the scene after receiving a 911 call that claimed a disturbed man was armed and threatened to commit suicide. The “gun” in question was, in fact, a toy truck that belonged to Kinsey’s patient.

Fearing for his patient’s life, Kinsey raised his arms high in the air. He told the officers that there was no gun and he was unarmed.

“All he has is a toy truck,” Kinsey said. “A toy truck. I am a behavior therapist at a group home.”

Didn’t matter. Despite lying on the ground, raising his arms so that they were clearly visible and pleading with the officer, he was shot. As if to add insult to injury, Kinsey and his patient were handcuffed and arrested.

Moreover, when Kinsey asked the officer why he shot him, the officer replied, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know. Wow.

The North Miami Police Department immediately released a statement, which read, in part:

“Arriving officers attempted to negotiate with two men on the scene, one of whom was later identified as suffering from autism. The other man was later identified as an employee of an assisted living facility. At some point during the on-scene negotiation, one of the responding officers discharged his weapon, striking the employee.”

Luckily, Kinsey survived to tell the tale. But that’s no consolation to any black body on any given day that finds itself at the end of a police officer’s gun barrel. It’s no consolation to the black-lives-turned-hashtags that never made it out of similar encounters alive, and should’ve never been in them in the first place.

But, unfortunately, being Black in America means that you can be killed for the most mundane, inconsequential reasons. Nothing will help you. No amount of pleading will save you. No gesture, even raising your arms in the air to show compliance with an officer’s orders, will sway the state to believe that your blackness is a non-threat.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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