Police shootings in African American communities have prompted public outcry in recent years, triggering a national conversation on the need for reform. A year ago, Tetrina Blalock's cousin was killed by police after being shot more than a dozen times following a narcotics pursuit. Blalock reflects on that experience and her own encounters with law enforcement in her community.
William Brangham: As we reported earlier, Sacramento is just the latest flash point exposing deep divisions about race and policing in America.
In tonight’s Brief But Spectacular, Tetrina Blalock of Mississippi offers her personal take on losing a loved one at the hands of the police and her desire for respect.
Question: Can you describe your firsthand experience with racism and prejudice?
Tetrina Blalock: In Mississippi? That’s all the time.
I had an incident in the grocery store not far from here, where it was an older white lady, so I’m just going to give it up to she just didn’t know no better.
So we were getting ready to check out. And, yes, I had more items than her, but I was in a hurry. So, she said: “You should let me in front of you.”
So I turned to her like this. And I said: “Oh, OK.” I said: “Well, she probably can open up her line in a minute,” and I kept proceeding on. So she said: “You coloreds don’t know your place.”
You never think your cousin going to be the one who going to get shot by the police. We went to the city council meeting. I said, we have questions that we need answers. I’m not saying my cousin was perfect, because he was in and out of jail. So you automatically assume he a thug.
But what happened to my cousin was overkill. From my understanding, my cousin was like this when he got shot. So, the police officers who shot my cousin, guess what they said? “I was in fear for my life.”
My cousin wasn’t 120 pounds soaking wet with snow boots on, OK? He was shot in his arm. He was shot in his chest. He was shot in the back of his head. The moment you hit him, and he’s falling back like this, the threat is gone.
I’m trying to figure out how, you have two officers who shot my cousin, they weren’t off from work three months, they’re back on the job, but you want me to have trust in this system, that it’s going to work in my favor.
My personal experiences with the law, they have been good and bad. I went to jail for speeding. I think the speed limit’s maybe 30, and I think I was going 34. And he said that they don’t play that there.
I have been taken to jail for something I had nothing to do with. I have been pulled over. I have had them tear my car up once before. I’m like Fannie Lou Hamer. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I have the same rights and privileges that you have. It’s a respect thing. Tupac once said that you can only beat on the door so long before you’re going to come and try to kick it down. And I done knocked on the door. I done rung the doorbell. I have asked.
And I’m to the point now I’m ready to kick down doors and be like, hey, you’re going to either give me my respect, or I’m going to get my respect.
My name is Trina Blalock, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on respect.