Sadly, as Black folks know, what happened last weekend in Syracuse is not an anomaly by any means. Yesterday, a video of an 8-year-old Black boy being detained by police officers in Syracuse over allegedly stealing a bag of chips went viral. By design, American police forces are working exactly the way they’re supposed to: safeguarding white supremacy by dehumanizing and vilifying Black people. This is why an 8-year-old Black boy is handled with such ferocity by police when accused of stealing a bag of chips while a 21-year old mass murderer is treated to fast food after killing a group of Black churchgoers. Black people know they can never rely on an institution that was literally established to capture and torment slaves to protect us.
The incident was recorded and shared by bystander Kenneth Jackson. Quite frankly, it’s unbearable to watch. In the 4-minute footage, a white officer is seen forcing the sobbing child—with his arms pinned behind his back—into the back of a patrol unit. “What is ya’ll doing?” Jackson asked the group of officers. “He looks like a baby to me.” About three minutes into the video, one cop asks Jackson if he was going to follow the boy daily and pay for everything he steals. “I will! It’s a kid!” Jackson replied. In an attempt to diffuse outrage, Syracuse Police Department eventually released a statement that said:
“ We (SPD) are aware of a video being shared on social media involving several of our Officers and juveniles accused of stealing from a store on the city’’s northside. The incident, including the Officers’ actions and body worn cameras, are being reviewed. There is some misinformation involving this case. The juvenile suspected of larceny was not placed in handcuffs. He was placed in the rear of a patrol unit where he was directly brought home. Officers met with the child’s father and no charges were filed.”
As if that information could erase the trauma inflicted on this child. The actions of the officers were so disturbing that both the Mayor and Governor of Syracuse separately expressed their disdain. Mayor Ben Walsh said in a statement that this episode “demonstrates the continuing need for the City to provide support to our children and families and to invest in alternative response options to assist our officers.”
Governor Kathy Hochul also shared her aversion to the events that took place. “As a mother, that was a heartbreaking video to watch. A crying child, pulled by the police officers, put in the back of a police car, over a bag of chips, at least that’s what the evidence says now,” she said at press conference Wednesday morning.
Like we’ve seen time and time again, police continually go out of their way to harm Black kids. It happened last month in Washington at Lincoln Middle School when an off-duty white police officer put his knee of the neck of a 12-year old Black girl while trying to break up a fight. It happened last year in Florida where a white resource officer body slammed a 16-year-old Black girl. It happened in 2020 in Honolulu where a 10-year-old Black girl was handcuffed with extensive force by a white officer for drawing a “offensive” picture of a school bully.
It happened in 2019 in California where a white officer arrested a 12-year-old Black boy for “trespassing.” The Root has previously reported the adultification of Black children, but with what happened in Syracuse it bears repeating. According to research published by the American Psychological Association, Black children as young as 10 are perceived as older than they actually are, considered less innocent than their white peers and are more likely to face police violence if accused of a crime.
When the #BlackLivesMatter movement gained momentum in 2013 , racists devised the retort of Blue Lives Matter one year later. Occupation, they insisted, can be just as as detrimental to a person’s likelihood of experiencing a hate crime as race can. What this countermovement fails to realize is that Black people have been—and continue to be—under attack since this country’s inception.
Police are still disproportionately arresting, assaulting and killing Black folks with little to no repercussions. Despite initiatives aimed at defunding police as a whole, those pleas have appeared to have fallen on deaf ears as Joe Biden plans on giving them more money in his proposed 2023 budget plan. What happened to that Black child in Syracuse serves a cruel reminder of how anti-Black Blue lives really are. The only difference now is that their violence toward us is going viral.