Our Opinion: As year ends, black lives are under assault


When it comes to black lives and how much they matter in America, 2015 is going out in dismal fashion.

An Ohio grand jury Monday declined to return an indictment in the 2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, an incident that horrified the nation. Tamir was in possession of a toy gun but Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot him to death just seconds after he arrived at a park in response to a 911 call about "a guy with a pistol." The officer shot first, asked questions and saw the gun was a toy later. He has escaped criminal punishment, although civil lawsuits are likely.

In Chicago, where living while black is hazardous, and the police force is under federal investigation over its eager use of deadly force, police responding to a domestic violence call Saturday shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio Grier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones. Mr. Grier, who had mental health issues, had allegedly threatened his father with a baseball bat. Ms. Jones was an innocent bystander, police acknowledge, and her family seeks video footage of the incident.

The latest shootings sent Mayor Rahm Emanuel scrambling back to the city from vacation. The mayor has been under attack since the video footage of the gunning down of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014 by a Chicago police officer was finally released after a suspiciously long delay. Mr. McDonald, who was armed with a knife and walking away from police, was shot 16 times, leading to the indictment of Officer Jason Van Dyke on charges of first degree murder.

The all too frequent shootings and killings of young black men by, with some exceptions, white police officers, led to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement in America. The killings by trigger-happy, and/or racist cops employing the familiar "I felt threatened" excuse are shameful enough, but the difficulty in getting indictments, let alone convictions, greatly compounds this injustice.

Will anything change in 2016? While it is difficult to be optimistic, nothing will change unless all Americans join aggrieved black Americans in insisting that black lives be valued and that justice be applied fairly and equally regardless of skin color.


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