1. 1995: The OJ Simpson Verdict
The public response to the Simpson verdict was one of the most distinct and loudest examples of the racial divide in the ’90s. Because Simpson was indirectly representing every Black male in America during the trial of the century, many Black people were relieved that he was vindicated as “not guilty” by the jury. But White people were captured on camera mortified.
2. 1998: The Death Of James Bryd, Jr.
Byrd was leaving a bridal shower when he was approached by 3 White men in a truck. The men went on to brutally murder Byrd by beating him and dragging him by his ankles as they drove for miles. His body parts were severed and mutilated. In 2011, justice was served as Byrd’s killers faced fate: Lawrence Russell Brewer died through lethal injection; John King’s on death row; and Shawn Berry received life in prison.
3. 2001:The Cincinnati Riots
The Cincinnati Riots were a scary turning point as enraged residents took to the streets in an angry protest over the death of Black teen Timothy Thomas. Thomas, unarmed, was killed by a cop and his death was the final straw for the Black community after a string of police brutality incidents. Described as the “L.A. Riots” of the north, the riots lasted for 5 days and cost the city $10 million.
4. 2006: Sean Bell
Bell was unarmed when he was shot by 3 detectives who were also outside of Club Kalua, where his bachelor party was being held. They were there to investigate a possible prostitution ring, but as they became suspicious of Bell and his friends, a shoot-out occurred as Bell’s car crashed into an officer’s, they shot out 50 bullets at him. Bell died on his wedding day and the cops were later acquitted.
5. 2007: Don Imus Calls Female Basketball Team “Nappy Headed Hoes”
Imus tried it. While live on the air, he randomly chose to talk about the Rutgers University female basketball team, which was largely Black and referred to them as “nappy headed hoes.” Black people and leaders became angry, calling his comment “racist” and “sexist” and demanded an apology, which was received. But his show Imus In the Morning paid the price and CBS Radio cancelled it following the controversy.
6. 2009: Oscar Grant
The true story that was the basis of 2013’s film Fruitvale Station, occurred on New Year’s Day 2009. Oscar Grant, after trying to calm down a heightened situation between cops and his friends at a train station was shot directly by White cop Johannes Meserle. Grant died the next day at the hospital. His death sparked protests and the cop served a little over a year in jail and remains on parole.
7. 2010: Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Dead at 7-Years-Old
In May 2010, Stanley-Jones was killed during a police raid by her Detroit home. White officer Joseph Weekley fired the shot that hit her and was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. But it would take 3 more years before a trial would begin and there was first a mistrial in 2013. In January 2015, Weekley was unthinkably cleared of charges for killing a 7-year-old child.
8. 2010: Omar Thornton, Employee Turned Gunman
Thornton was a former employee of Hartford Distributors and in a mass murder, he targeted White people at his job before committing suicide. He previously complained of racism in the workplace and had stolen two semiautomatic pistols once he resigned and was caught on camera stealing beer. After the shooting, he called 911 and calmly confessed. The incident is Connecticut’s 2nd most deadly massacre.
9. 2011: The Capital Punishment of Troy Davis
Davis’ case and eventual execution became an international headline because while he vouched non-stop for his innocence, he was accused of murdering police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. Witnesses from the scene aligned with Davis that he was only helping a homeless man at the time. Plus, there was no evidence from a weapon or DNA to convict with him. Supporters worldwide protested, but he was executed in September.
10. 2014: #BlackLivesMatter: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Antonio Martin, John Crawford, Tamir Rice & More
In 2014, the racial divide intensified as it appeared more than ever more unarmed Black lives were gunned down by police brutality. Eric Garner and Michael Brown particularly ignited the news and national protests as the non-indictments of the cops that killed them sparked a nationwide call for action that is called #BlackLivesMatters. We still march on for these slain souls now.