I consider myself to be a profound optimist — one who sees the glass half-full rather than half-empty. I believe in the goodness of humankind. I work to ignore assumed differences based on race, creed, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or economic status. And, as my parents taught me, I live by the Golden Rule, treating others as I would like to be treated.
But sometimes I fear that I may be a member of a distinct minority in a world heavily-populated and dominated by a crew of credulous, crestfallen, calculating crusaders, driven by an inexplicable hatred of “the other.” Maybe that would explain why yet another unarmed Black man like Stephon Clark with a cellphone as his only “weapon,” could be cornered by South Sacramento police officers while in his own grandparents’ backyard, then fatally wounded after being shot eight times in a hail of bullets, the majority of which he took in the back. The police say there were searching for a reported robber who had been breaking into cars in the area by smashing the windows.
I suppose it was just bad luck that the 22-year-old brother must have fit the description of the actual perpetrator because, well … it’s a known fact that “all Blacks look alike.”
The Clark family’s attorney, my longtime friend Benjamin Crump, has refuted the accounts of the police as to what actually happened, citing both the results from an independently-commissioned autopsy initiated by the family and body cam footage that Crump asserts reveals a much different picture from the one shared by law enforcement officials in their description of the events that transpired on the evening of March 18 and led to the death of still another young, Black man.
And so while protests continue with citizens calling for the firing of the two policemen involved, in a separate but equally disturbingly similar situation, the Baton Rouge policeman who nearly two years ago fired six shots at Alton Sterling in response to a call in a convenience store parking lot, has been fired by the city’s police department for actions its chief says “contributed to the outcome that resulted in the death of another human being.” But not until the release of surprise footage showed the policeman in question shouting profanities at Sterling, slamming him into a car, twice ordering his colleague [recently suspended for three days] to use his Taser and threatening to shoot Sterling while aiming his weapon at the man’s head.
Louisiana officials have long maintained that body cam footage was unavailable that would clear up any discrepancies involving that police-involved shooting. We’ve been told that based on the evidence, neither state or federal officials felt compelled to lodge criminal charges against the two officers.
It’s these kinds of numerous and almost “normalized” encounters between Black men and the police, that now make it essential for all Black parents to have “the talk” with their children, especially with their young sons, in order to avoid seeing the names of our children added to ever-growing list of Blacks shot and killed by “Officer Friendly” — Blacks guilty of little more than committing that one unforgivable crime that still remains on America’s books: “walking while Black.”
On Aug. 28, 1963, on the centennial of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his now iconic message uttered within the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, said, “the time has come to make justice a reality for all God’s children,” further saying, “I have a dream my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Fifty years since his assassination on April 4, 1968, America has yet to embrace or endorse the conditions that would make Dr. King’s dream a reality. Blacks, no matter their age or gender, all face the daily threat of losing their lives simply because they’re Black — second-class citizens in a country that has falsely purported to be a port and safe haven for anyone seeking refuge from storms of injustice, inequity or intolerance. But that’s just the rhetoric carefully administered by this country’s privileged few.
And so, I remain on guard, protecting as best I can my now two adult children, one a still-naïve man-child, and my two male grandchildren, a toddler and a teenager, from the possibility — even the inevitability of their premature death at the hands of those sworn to “serve and protect.
If you have not had “the talk” with your young offspring, do it now and with the quickness. Chats about the birds and the bees now seem irrelevant. It’s all about keeping our youth alive, providing them with the lens that allows them to see the world that only Black folk must face — one where our lives still do not matter.
As for Dr. King’s soul, I imagine, it still does not rest while his dream remains … just a dream.