Fear is a powerful emotion that is governing profiling, policing and politics. This fear has fueled some legislators to pass open carry laws that allow individuals to carry firearms in hallowed places such as faith and educational institutions. Second amendment proponents proclaims loudly that individuals have the right to protect themselves. However, these same individuals are eerily quiet when black male citizens are gunned down by individuals who are supposedly trained to “protect and serve”. What can Black males do to be protect themselves when the agents of public safety represent credible threats to their ability to remain among the living?
The events over the past 48 hours have ripped off the scab covering the deep wound resulting from the tumultous relationshp between marginalized males and the police. Too many funerals have been and continue to be planned for African American males whose last moments on this earth were spent absorbing bullets from gun barrels pointed at them by police officers supposedly engaged in routine traffic stops and street interactions. Police shootings often associated with Chicago and Baltimore are now springing up in cities like Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. When does it end? How will it end? As someone born during the late 1960s, I never was able to grasp the fear of law enforcement expressed by older family members coming of age in the South during the Jim Crow era. I now get it. As I reflect on the events surrounding Eric Garner, LaQuan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling and Phlando Castile, I recall the haunting lyrics of the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit” that bear witness and protest the lynching of Black Males. The lyrics of today are captured video footage bearing witness to horrors of policing by fear.
President Obama reponds to the deaths of Mr. Sterling and Castile by challenging us to “do better”. In my mind, doing better requires us to do the hard work of holding public servants at all levels accountable. Protests are important and necessary; however, demonstrations must not be limited to crowds and megaphones. They need to evolve and involve coalition-building and community organizing. Indivduals of conscience and goodwill need to come together to demonstrate that we are a nation in which we are our brothers and sisters keepers. When this occurs, we will have a collective strength and power to face our fears, and do what is necessary to ensure that all lives matter.