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A Similar Story Told 74 Years Apart

One of the first things I was taught in my High School history class was the answer to the question "Why is it important for us to learn History?". The answer my teacher told us was so we are not doomed to repeat it.

I want to introduce two incidents in the US: the cases of Isaac Woodard and Jacob Blake. In both incidents, the Police Officer used an amount of force that caused both individuals to sustain physical injuries that will affect them for the rest of their life. A major difference between the two is the years with Issac Woodard occurring in 1946 and Jacob Blake occurring in 2020.

Issac Woodard, a 26-year old black male, and World War II veteran, after being honorably discharged was traveling back home to see his wife when an encounter with the South Carolina police left him blind. On February 12th, 1946, Woodard was riding a bus when a disagreement about a bathroom stop with the bus driver resulted in the driver calling the police to respond. When police arrived, Woodard was ordered off the bus and was struck by the officer's nightstick then escorted to jail. While in Jail, Woodard was repeatedly beaten by the Police Chief in the eyes with a nightstick until he blackout. Woodard when he regained consciousness couldn’t see but it wasn’t until he was brought in front of a judge found guilty of disorderly conduct and had to pay 50 dollars that he was able to seek medical assistance.

Jacob Blake, a 29-year old black male, and father of six, was left partially paralyzed after an encounter with Kenosha Police Officers. On August 23rd, 2020, Police responded to the area because of a domestic complaint made by a woman. Witnesses stated that Blake had been attempting to break up an argument between two women when the police responded. The police's response, which was recorded by witnesses, resulted in Blake being shot seven times in the back as he tried to get into his car that contained his children. The prosecutors charged Blake with one count of third-degree sexual assault, one count of criminal trespass, and two counts of disorderly conduct. The count of third-degree sexual assault was dropped and the prosecution made a plea deal to drop the count of criminal trespass if Blake pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct which he did.

In both incidents, Issac Woodard and Jacob Blake the Police Officers, who were predominantly white, did not face repercussions for their actions. Whether the police officers were not charged or were acquitted of all charges the end result is they walked away with a metaphorical clean slate. While Issac Woodard and Jacob Blake came out from their respective police interactions with charges of disorderly conduct on their record and injuries that will impede their day to day life.

To return to my early statement in regard to the importance of learning history with a follow-up question. Why do we so often repeat history and still not learn from it? The details of Jacob Blake and Issac Woodards' interactions with the Police may be different. However, both outcomes are similar even though they are around 74 years apart.

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