Another Back Seat Death: Alesia Thomas Joins The List


It is funny when people tell me that racism doesn’t exist anymore. The times of enslavement, Jim Crow, KKK, and segregation are long gone. We live in an integrated society and are accepting of all people. I remember sitting in class and watching old videos of peaceful sit-ins transform into violent interactions. Police would unleash dogs allowing them to claim the flesh of black folks. My fellow classmates would gasp at the images in disbelief. Shocked that this could actually happen. They’d mutter sounds of disapproval and horror. Some even tear up, overwhelmed with emotion and confused by the stark evidence of the attack on Black lives in this great country. And then there is a sigh of relief that those dangerous times had past. Or so it appears.

America. The land of freedom and justice. So great is this country that it allowed its police force the free reign to beat, attack, and kill Blacks during the protests of the 1960s. A society that, 30 years later, acquitted police officers after they brutally beat and bludgeon Rodney King despite the fact that the entire scene was captured on film. These incidents continue into the 21st century, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Chavis Carter, and Milton Hall are just a few whose lives have been claimed at the hands of police officers and provide proof that racism does indeed exist. And now Alesia Thomas joins this list.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Alesia Thomas dropped off her two younger children at the police station because she felt that she could not care for them due to a substance abuse problem. LAPD later went to Thomas’ to arrest her on charges of child endangerment. Thomas apparently resisted arrest and what happened thereafter could only be described as excessive force, going as far force her to the ground, restrain her using a “hobble restraint device, and kick her in her genitals.

After officers forced Thomas into the back seat of the police car, she is seen on the video breathing shallowly; she eventually stopped breathing and died at the scene.

After reading this, I immediately thought about the Chavis Carter incident. His death was ruled a suicide even though his hands were handcuffed  behind his back and they found no weapons when they initially frisked him. Something is not adding up. Police officers seem to be able to say anything. Do anything, even if it does not logically add up, to account for the death of people of color. Not only do they possess a bag of far fetched stories they spin off as facts, they also walk around with an infinite amount of  “get out of jail free cards” that allow them to kill (wait a minute, not kill) murder without consequence. Who is holding them accountable? Who is there to tell them that they have crossed the line? Apparently no one.

We are living in 2012, fifty long years from the violent and tumultuous times of the past. Blacks have elevated in status. We can attend the best schools, obtain the best jobs, and live comfortable lives. But let me ask you something. Are you really living a comfortable life? Do you think that you are safe? Honestly, as a Black person in the United States of America, can you say with 100% conviction that you, your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your son, your daughter, neighbor down the street, your barber, your friends, or anybody you know is safe?

In this country as a person of color, degrees, awards, acknowledgements, social class, nationality, or socio-economic status are moot. They are not armor against bullets or a shield against debilitating stereotypes that serve as justification for the mass of killings committed by police officers against Black people. This is evidence to the systemic corruption that plagues this country’s judicial system. It is spreading like a malignant tumor and unfortunately it is claiming the lives of people of color at an alarming rate. These times are no different. We have not progressed.

We are not closer to freedom if we have to worry about whether or not someone is going to take our life for going to the store to buy groceries. We are not closer to justice if a police officer can murder my brother, father, uncle, or friend even if he cooperates, and months later is acquitted for the crime that he has committed. There is no justice! And no one is immune. No one is safe. We, the generation of the 21st century, are baring witness to modern day lynchings, an act that is institutionally supported and maintained.

It is frustrating and saddening to see our basic rights to life and liberty stripped from us without a backwards glance.


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