When I get married, it will be to a black man. If I give birth to a son, he will live in this world as a black man. He is not born yet but I already fear for my son’s life.
Just to know that his life is not valued by the protective system in this country; to know that he can make a mistake—refuse to yield to an officer, paint graffiti on a wall, or steal a bag of candy—and be shot to his death… It nearly brings me to tears. Because while I know these mistakes are irrefutable, he deserves to spend a few hours in jail, to be charged with a misdemeanor and to regret it for years to come. But I don’t believe any of it calls for the death of my child.
What will you tell me? That you feared for your life? That you thought he had a gun? No matter how much I dislike making excuses for my race, how many times have you heard about a white boy being shot to his death for talking back to authorities? How many white mothers do you know who have lost their sons at the hands of law enforcement because their sons ran the opposite direction?
A rich white teen gets off on probation for stealing two cases of beers, driving drunk and killing four pedestrians due to “affluenza” (being too wealthy to know better, in Layman’s terms) while a black kid gets shot down in the middle of a Walmart for “threatening” customers with a toy gun. I can’t even discuss the type of lawyer I’m sure the rich white teen’s parents could afford versus the black one because the latter didn’t even get a chance to make it to court.
What do we do when the law doesn’t protect us? How do we react, when it’s the police officer’s word against a dead body? Are we still supposed to place our trust in the same system that took our sons, brothers and nephews away? Human beings who were likely unarmed, being boys, making their mistakes like any other American kid? Is that the system we’re supposed to believe is doing its due diligence?
Yes, most African Americans are killed by the people of their own race. But when they aren’t—when the man behind the gun is also the man who the victim is supposed to place his trust in—that cannot be overlooked or ignored. It calls for answers; it calls for the truth.
I cannot lie any longer. Not to my race and not to myself. This is a bigger issue than black on black crime, because we don’t expect our neighbors, classmates, or co-workers to protect us. We expect the law to. Black men have been worse than devalued, because devalued would have to mean they were ever of value. Police officers have never valued the life of a black man, and that’s a fact I have had to learn to accept.
African American males in this country are expected to end up in jail sometime in their life. They don’t hold much value to this country because they likely won’t become doctors or lawyers. They probably won’t become CEOs or own their own businesses. It makes sense: if they’re killed, they likely won’t be missed. But it’s far from the truth, and even further from just.
The black man may not mean anything to you, officer. He may not even mean much to America as a whole. But he’s someone’s child, someone’s father, someone’s husband. He means something to someone the same way you do. If you, the law, have failed one American, have you not failed America?