What about Shem?

Illustration for article titled What about Shem?

From Elon James White at This Week in Blackness:

“Shem Walker? Who the heck is Shem Walker?”

That was the response a friend had when I brought up the name of the recently murdered Brooklynite. I will admit that I would have LOVED to stand on my higher-than-thou step stool and wag my finger at him; I’d love to point out his blatant ignorance of such horrendous cases of police brutality in Black America. (We’re Black, we’re supposed to just feel police bruality, like a spider-sense, but with more drum and bass.) Truth be told, I had a similar reaction a mere twenty-four hours earlier. I was enlightened by the story of Shem Walker on a brunch outing with a group I affectionately refer to as the ”Black Justice League” (Batman/Wonder Woman-type justice, not MLK/Malcolm X-type justice). Little did I know that this innocent jovial outing would actually point out an injustice that I was sincerely unaware of.


I was struck when my friend was so dumbfounded by the name Shem Walker. Had I asked him about Dr. Henry Louis Gates he would have been quite familiar with HIM and all aspects of that incident, right down to the 911 call placed by a white woman, who did not mention race. Every known media outlet in America covered the allegedly biased arrest of the noted scholar and the following hailstorm of controversy that resulted. (Perhaps it was all a product of a little bit of Harvard lawyering, a little bit of presidential commentary, and a little bit of post-racial America’s slip showing.) The murder of a man on the stoop of his own home by a police officer seems to have had the same impact as Americans calling for health-care reform. Meaning none. No impact whatsoever. Congress will go on vacation and people will continue not knowing the name Shem Walker. Unlike the Gates case, it seems that the facts here are fairly clear.

An undercover police officer sat on Walker’s family stoop and so Walker requested the trespasser leave. The officer, who had headphones on, did not hear the request. Walker then went to remove the undercover officer from his stoop by force and a fight ensued. After yelling “freeze” Walker was then shot and killed.(A nearby police officer claims the undercover officer said “Police. Freeze.” Yes, there was a nearby officer and with this officer nearby the undercover officer still pulled a gun.)

End Scene.

Read the rest of the article here.