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The Reality and the Rules

July 21st, 2013 Comments off

Trayvon-Martin-protesters-march-in-Sanford-4I182P5A-x-large“Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that—doesn’t go away.” President Barak Obama, July 19, 2013

The Reality

When it comes to race relations in 2013, the United States has evolved immeasurably. Unfortunately, it also has a way to travel especially when it comes to African-American and Latino youth. The realty is race still matters in this country, but it is becoming less of a differentiator, especially among the under 40 generation. Realty shows that being a black or brown male in the US leads to high mortality and mistrust.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve stepped onto an elevator and watched white women clutch their purse. That I dressed in an expensive suit, white shirt and tie made absolutely difference. The sounds of car doors locking was common music whenever I approached on foot or even in my car

“And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator.” Barak Obama, President of the United States, July 19, 2013

That President Obama spoke out on the necessity of the nation pulling together as a concerned citizen including his personal experience as black man was unprecedented and brought praise as well as criticism. For me, what the President said was especially poignant because as a black man I’ve experienced just what the President spoke of and more.

Years ago, my father educated me to the dangers facing young black men during the “Jim Crow” era, which included wrongful imprisonment and lynching. Just as I received my education from my father, I gave the same information to my sons. Even though times had changed, the instruction remained the same with some additions. The following is a list I used that is an accumulation from neighbors, family and friends:

  1. Choose your friends wisely. The wrong choice of groups can make you a target especially if you are a black or male.
  2. Choose your clothes just as wisely. Regardless of your pedigree, if you are black or brown male certain clothing and the manner in which it is worn affects perception, especially by the police.
  3. Take your hands out of your pockets. This one is specifically for police perceptions. This includes walking with one hand holding up your pants.
  4. Sagging pants are dead, but they are still visible, especially to the police.
  5. Loud talking is another no-no. Loud talking draws attention from people who will call the police or security.
  6. Even driving can prove a challenge. DWB is an acronym meaning “Driving While Black” which came about because of “profiling.”
  7. Be careful visiting areas that are exclusively white and rich. Even for whites, there is a good chance of being stopped by security or the police. For blacks or Hispanics, it is nearly guaranteed.
  8. In dealing with the police, we were taught to always be respectful no matter the treatment we received.
  9. Expect to be followed when shopping.
  10. Always make sure to keep your receipts while shopping.

This is just a short list of things most black parents tell their children just for everyday living. In the wake of the George Zimmerman acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin, peaceful demonstrations protesting the verdict, profiling and “stand your ground” laws took place in more than 100 cities all over the nation.

Recent History

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas when three white men picked him up in a bar. After they left, they beat him, hooked him by a chain to the back of their pickup and dragged him to his death. December 3, 2010, 26-year-old African American Frederick Jermaine Carter was found hanging in a Mississippi tree in a white suburb. The NAACP termed the event a lynching.

On June 26, 2011, James Craig Anderson, 49, was run over and killed by two truckloads of teens. A Hinds County Mississippi District Attorney said a group of the teenagers in a large Ford F250 pickup truck, floored the gas, and drove the truck right over Anderson, killing him instantly. The youths were not aware the entire scene was capture on a surveillance camera. Just this year, sixteen-year-old Kimani Gray was shot four times in the front and side of his body and three times in the back by two New York City police officers as he left a friend’s birthday party in Brooklyn on March 9, 2013. The only publicly identified eyewitness stands by her claim that he was empty-handed when he was gunned down.

Amadou Diallo, a West African immigrant with no criminal record, died of gunshot wounds after New York Police fired 41 shots and striking him 19 times. They said they thought the 23-year-old had a gun. It was a wallet. The officers were all acquitted of second-degree-murder charges. In the early-morning hours of what was supposed to be 23-year-old Sean Bell‘s wedding day, police fired more than 50 bullets at a car carrying him and his friends outside a Queens, N.Y., strip club in 2006. Bell was killed, and two of his friends were wounded.

We are a country of law and rules. Under the law George Zimmerman was found not guilty

“And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.” Barack Obama, President of the United States, July 19, 2013

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