Open Season on Black Men?
Is it open season on black men? Some would say it is, and I can’t say it’s not.Growing up, my mom had a plaque on the wall that said “Children Learn What They Live.” It went on to describe how the atmospheres fostered in a household affects the children that grow up in it. Basically, children are products of their environments.
It’s amazing how a change of environment opens our eyes to new ideas and things we may not have encountered if not in a different place. I can remember living in a Chicago suburb and having a racially diverse neighborhood and school. Some of my best friends at school were white. So, when we moved to Alabama and I was made aware that “white folks don’t like black people,” I was confused.
I didn’t understand how the people I was around every day now all of a sudden didn’t like me or people who looked like me. I’ve lived with that inner conflict even until this day. My high school principal Daniel Shakespeare used to tell us, “They don’t have to wear sheets now, chasing you, burning your homes, and lynching you. Now, they fight you with this.” And he’d hold up one of the pens he’d pulled from his pocket. He emphasized that [those who are prejudiced against you don’t have to beat you physically when they can beat you with the pen. When they sign your checks, they determine how much you’re paid. When they write the laws, it’s not necessarily in your favor. The strongest man is not the one who fights the best or lifts the most weights; it’s the one that carries the pen!
Here I am more than 15 years later, and I’ve never forgotten it. To motivate us before it was time to take our tests, we’d have assemblies where Mr. Shakespeare would say whatever he had to say, and he’d hold up his pen. Everyone in the auditorium said together, “The power of the pen.”
I said all that to say this: The power of the pen is killing us. Again, I don’t think all white people are bad. I think it is those humanitarians who are the reasons why we weren’t all lynched following emancipation. However, those with the pen have found other ways to kill us. Ever heard “ignorance of the law is no excuse?” How many of us have actually read the laws that govern us? Do we review the decisions made after each legislative session? Follow city council meetings? County commission?
THIS is what they’re counting on. WE are not expected to know the law. So, we’re certainly not expected to follow it. And the slightest disobedience could easily cost our lives. Isn’t that amazing? There is no way that selling loose cigarettes should have cost Eric Garner his life.
The last time I checked, jaywalking resulted in receiving a ticket, not the death penalty such as the case in the slaying of Mike Brown. In 2007, Jeremy Whitson of Tuscaloosa was shot and killed by a policeman. The officer says he felt as if his life was in danger and that Whitson was reaching for the officer’s gun. Now, unless a person is a fugitive murderer, why would he risk killing an officer, guaranteeing himself life in prison if not death?
The way laws are written, even including the jury selection process, is slanted. A person is supposedly innocent until proven guilty…. Unless something about that person makes his word less viable than a policeman, it seems. How can the people that we teach our children to look up to and depend on become the same people they learn to fear? Simple. Children learn what they live. When they see racial profiling and understand how unjust the justice system really is, the very person they were taught to trust becomes the enemy. The logical reaction of this is to rebel. Unfortunately, the rebellion is almost assurance that the cycle will continue and grow worse.
It was questionable when first mentioned that police officers would begin being armed with body cameras, but maybe that’s not such a bad idea. After all, it was a police camera that vindicated this man:
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It seems that in cases where there are no police cameras, it’s one man’s word against another’s even when there are witnesses whose accounts back those of the “suspect.” Black men are being harassed, beaten, and killed by law enforcement at an alarming rate simply because of two things: fear and hatred. I don’t even know if they are aware that it is fear that feeds their hatred. But what I do know is that until this problem is fixed,our men aren’t safe.