Every detail about how police delayed action from stopping a mass shooter in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 is more gut-wrenching than the last. When an 18-year-old terrorist stormed Robb Elementary School with a semi-automatic rifle last week, officers made it to the scene quickly. However, they failed to prevent innocent victims from losing their lives. The results of their immobility at Robb Elementary School? 21 people dead—19 children and 2 adults.
Uvalde officers waited an hour before entering the school instead of immediately going after the gunman responsible for the attack. They ran inside to save their own children and brought them to safety. They also threatened and arrested parents who were desperate t0 do the same thing. In the time law enforcement sat idly outside, more than 100 rounds of ammunition were fired.
During a news conference on May 27, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw admitted that the inaction from law enforcement cost those students and teachers their lives. “From the benefit of hindsight, where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision,” McCraw stated. “It was the wrong decision, period. There’s no excuse for that.” The gunman was eventually killed more than an hour after he had entered the school.
From Columbine to Parkland to Newtown to Uvalde. From Buffalo to Charleston to El Paso to San Bernardino. From Las Vegas to Orlando to Blacksburg to Sutherland Springs. Mass shootings have become a disturbingly cyclical part of American culture. The fact that police haven’t prevented any of these tragedies only reiterates what Black people have known for centuries: their only purpose is to harm the vulnerable and work against the promotion of public safety.
The roots of modern day policing go back to days of slavery; the institution was established to capture, torment and kill Black people. Black folks and people of color have never looked to the cops to protect us, knowing that we are the target of their impunity. The racist and violent historical context of law enforcement is as prominent as it ever was. We are the ones disproportionately profiled, harassed, arrested, assaulted, incarcerated and murdered by cops—even when we call them in crisis.
What happened in Uvalde is a result of a racist institution prioritizing oppressing marginalized groups over protecting them. Officers are known to be everything from KKK members to Proud Boys and use their positions to uphold white supremacy—which enables these senseless massacres. Uvalde officers didn’t do a damn thing to protect those babies. But the reality is they were, in fact, doing their job.
It doesn’t matter how many people die. It doesn’t matter if they’re kids at school or worshippers at church or elderly people at grocery stores. Those who hold the most power in our society maintain it by participating in discriminatory systems driven by death. Police are—and will always be—one of the most vicious and carceral accomplices of this framework. When will they be defunded once and for all?