George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer and domestic violence counselor. He lives and works in Rochester.
A National Matter: Trump’s Silence on Sacramento is Unacceptable
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 mind if the president disagrees with the family’s version of events of that fateful night or 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. If Trump believes that this man was a convicted felon in the act of vandalism and robbery — and if he wants to admonish Clark’s behavior and champion the heroic response of the Sacramento Police Department — that is fine with me. After all, the president is entitled to his own opinions.
But the president cannot be silent. To merely wave the death of Stephon Clark off as a “local matter” is not only a cowardly reaction for a sitting president to take, it is an act of callousness towards the family members, the Sacramento police force, and anyone who has ever been caught in the crossfire of crime.
That said, one need not be on a side 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 one 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.”
And lest we forget, 22-year old Stephon Clark had two sons. Two toddlers will never see their dad again.
The time for taking sides is over. So is the time for Trump’s silence.
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. 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 meaningful statement about a family’s dead son? You meddle in the affairs of other countries and tweet about companies such as Amazon, but you do not have the courtesy to make a dignified address regarding the complexities of policing in the 21st century. Your silence is deafeningly revealing.