The title of today’s blog is a tweet I sent out a few days ago when I learned of the murder of Mike Brown in a small community outside of St. Louis. I can think of no more helpless feeling than to know that someone has lost their life at the hands of those who are sworn to “protect and serve!”
This almost wanton killing of unarmed Black people is getting so tiresome. We have gone from Trayvon Martin to Jordan Davis, to Renisha McBride, to Eric Garner, to Mike Brown over the past few years and there seems to be no end in sight.
Some argue that Black people only get exorcised over these incidents when White people are the shooters while at the same time hundreds of Black youth are killing each other in places like Chicago and Philadelphia. Neither kinds of killing are justified. The seeming immunity we have toward neighborhood youth killing each other is rooted in our understanding of the utter hopelessness that pervades their lives. Without jobs or prospects for the future, the only sense of power some of these young people have is feel of a gun in their hands. This doesn’t make it right–it makes it their reality.
But how do we explain the shoot first and ask questions later mentality expressed by those who already have power and privilege? Why are the police and White citizens so quick to assume the absolute worst about Black youth and believe the only response to an interaction with them is to kill them?
My first memory of a Black youth being brutally murdered just for being young and Black happened with the murder of Emmett Till. The mutilation of his 14 year-old body left an indelible mark on my memory. It simultaneously terrified and enraged me. When I finally had my own sons Till’s memory had an inordinate impact on how I raised them. Even though they are adults I can still remember those conversations about what they could not do that their White classmates could and the specific instructions I gave them about how to respond WHEN (not if) they were stopped by a police officer. We schooled them on the careful way they were to speak, keep their hands visible, and respond to an officer’s request. As teenagers they balked at what they saw as our paranoia and over–protective parenting. But, as Black friends and classmates were starting to have negative interactions with law enforcement they began to realize we actually knew what we were talking about. They’ve learned that as Black men you could end up dying for nothing…absolutely nothing!
What do you think about what’s happening to our youth? How can we help them stay…
Black & Smart!