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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hammond death goes silent, unnoticed.

On July 26, Zachary Hammond was shot and killed by a police officer following a drug sting in a Hardee’s parking lot.

A year after Ferguson, the death of Michael Brown and so many other deaths by police, it would make sense that the death of an unarmed, white teenager would be national news and spark outrage among communities nationwide—but it hasn’t.

The outrage surrounding black deaths comes as a response to the ubiquitous and outright assault on black bodies by police; white people simply do not live with the constant fear that a traffic stop could end their life.

According to the Washington Post, 25 percent of the people shot dead by police in 2015 have been black. Black people make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. These deaths aren’t incidental, they are the calculated results of a system designed to benefit one race and harm another.

Zachary Hammond, like so many of the other victims, was unarmed. The police report notes that Hammond was buying drugs from a female in his vehicle at the time of the shooting and that Hammond attempted to hit the police officer with his vehicle—regardless of the veracity of either of those claims, unnecessary force was used.

Following his death, his family demanded to know where the outrage that had accompanied so many other police shooting deaths was. Where were the protesters? Where was the national news coverage? Eric Bland, the attorney for the family questioned the effect of Hammond’s race on the media coverage and subsequent response.

“It’s sad, but I think the reason is, unfortunately, the media and our government officials have treated the death of an unarmed white teenager differently than they would have if this were a death of an unarmed black teen,” Bland told the Washington Post this week. “The hypocrisy that has been shown toward this is really disconcerting.”

What Bland seems to misunderstand is that the media is first and foremost a business. No one is forcing them to cover the story because it is an outlier, something that, while horrible, simply isn’t as constant a threat to an entire population. Similarly, government officials have no incentive to aggrandize the story because no one is calling for it. No one is demanding results. White people are complacent in their safety.

Bland’s argument states, “The issue should never be what is the color of the victim. The issue should be: Why was an unarmed teen gunned down in a situation where deadly force was not even justified?”

His unfocused point is a further manifestation of the trite #AllLivesMatter defense. Arguing that all lives matter, while patently true, negates the fact that black lives are being assaulted seemingly without repercussion; when Bland and all the #AllLivesMatter people question the commitment of civil rights organizations so veraciously defending black lives and labels them black rights organizations, the notion that we are post-racial blurs an otherwise decent argument.

No one is copping to any of the agreeability argument in the case of Hammond, either. No one is suggesting the nice, white teenager maybe should have complied or treated the officer with respect, or simply that had he not been up to illegal activity he’d be alive.

According to Meredith Clark, an assistant professor for the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas who is conducting a research project on the Black Lives Matter movement, the lack of outrage and public commentary is not simply a result of Hammond’s race.

“I think the better question is why, instead of advocating for justice, which has all along been the narrative … why is the attorney and anyone else who is asking the question, looking to the crowd and asking them where they are?” Clark said. “The spread of the hashtag memorials was not about popularity. It was not about visibility. It was always about justice for people.”

Twitter user @JamilahLemieux notes that to be involved means to care about all affected parties, not just token ones. “#ZacharyHammond isn’t going to get the outrage he deserves because it would force folks to admit their consistent defense of police is wrong”.

You want outrage? Get on board. Simply sitting by and ignoring the issue of police brutality and excessive force until it directly effects your community is not just lazy, it’s disrespectful to victims. Everyone needs to be outraged. Everyone needs to be asking hard questions about the state of our judicial and law enforcement systems. 

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