During a routine traffic stop in the early hours of Tuesday, Aug. 11, Joseph M. Parker of Wakefield, Massachusetts, allegedly jumped out of his car and punched a police officer in the face. “The officer hit his head on the ground, was knocked unconscious, and suffered a concussion,” The Boston Globe’s Monica Disare reports.
In the ensuing hours, Parker would assault a further six officers, according to The New York Daily News. He was reportedly hurling expletives all the while, ranting about events in Ferguson, Missouri. Parker has been charged with assault and battery, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. He has since pleaded not guilty, according to the Globe.
Parker is white. He did nothing to “prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy,” as veteran Los Angeles cop Sunil Dutta wrote in an infamous essay published by The Washington Post last year. And yet, police managed to take him alive. Had Parker been black, all signs would’ve pointed to another tragedy.
“A year after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, unarmed black men are seven times more likely than whites to die by police gunfire ,” The Post reported on Aug. 8. In 2015, “black men accounted for 40% of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6% of the US population.”
These numbers are beyond maddening when we consider instance after instance of armed, violent white men surviving encounters with police. “Take Eric Fein, for example, a white 31-year-old sitting comfortably in jail on charges of killing one Pennsylvania state trooper in [Sep. 2014] and wounding another before forcing state police into a 48-day manhunt,” wrote Charles D. Ellison in an essay for The Root. “Perhaps one of the more notorious armed white guys involved in mass murder is James Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, who, even after allegedly slaughtering a dozen people and injuring 70 in a movie theater shooting in 2012, managed to survive the police response and is on trial.”
Sandra Bland was arrested (and manhandled) for essentially mouthing off to a Texas cop. She died in her jail cell three days later. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot for playing with a toy gun—because the mere thought of an armed, teenage black boy was apparently enough to warrant summary execution. Freddie Gray’s spine was snapped in police custody.
Joseph Parker’s mugshot shows a white man a little scraped, a little bruised, but defiant. Unrepentant. Because those are things white men get to be, in America. If you still don’t believe the system of law enforcement in the United States isn’t brutally, blatantly, unforgivingly biased when it comes to race, you’re simply not paying attention.