My 28-year-old son has never been in trouble with the law a day in his life. Few months back, my son was on his way home from work. He was professionally dressed with slacks, a button down shirt, and a tie. He just so happened to be eating fruit snacks when undercover detectives pulled over, approached him and smacked the fruit snacks out of his hand. They proceeded to throw him against the squad car, while telling him that he looked like a drug dealer. They also accused him of carrying drugs inside of the fruit snack bag. Fortunately for me, after they searched him and realized they had the wrong person, they let him go; I thank God he is alive today.
It was inevitable that we were going to have a conversation about his experience. When I asked my son how he felt, he responded, “Dad… I’m afraid of the police.” At that moment I didn’t know how to respond. For all intents and purposes, his fear is justified. I have always maintained the concept that all individuals in law enforcement are not bad, but that does not excuse the fact that there is an implicit bias in our society from education, housing, employment, and of course in law enforcement.
Even if a black man exhibits all that is deemed to be socially accepted such as their attire, communication, education, social behavior etc., he is still 2.5 times more likely to be shot by law enforcement because he is still perceived as an imminent threat. My son embodies these social attributes, and was misjudged to be iniquitous. Therefore, it is important for me to advise my son what to do if he is stopped by law enforcement: do not reach for anything; do as they say; remain silent; and in short, please do not give them a reason to kill you.
What’s frightening is that, if my hands are up I am a threat. If my hands are down, I am a threat. That must change. The media has recently allowed us to witness two more shootings, in Tulsa and Charlotte, within a few days of each other. Though we do not know all the facts surrounding these cases, people are angry and afraid. It seems that even when there is enough evidence to produce indictments on law enforcement, it is always accompanied by some type of technicality that allows the case to be thrown out all together or if it is an indictment there will more than likely be an acquittal.
I do not condone violence on any level but the youth in particular believe they have no other recourse. This is partly due to the fact that our systemic society does not place value on the lives of Black people. Our youth are upset and many of them have responded by using tactics that some may perceive as counterproductive. My message to the youth is to organize, execute action plans and understand that the ends do not justify the means. One thing about our youth is they can spot a fraud a mile away. The hard truth is that they do not respect the current leadership because many of them have been paid for their allegiance to those who continue to oppress and kill our people. These leaders couldn’t care less about the communities they claim to serve, instead they are more concerned about the next community development block grant or other government funding for their own personal agendas.
I cannot speak for other leadership out here, I can only speak for myself and my promise to you is simple, I will live by a single moral conviction. That is to want for my brother and sister what I want for myself and to never be driven by self-interest or greed. I will walk what I talk and I will always strive to become the person others will stand by and want to follow.
Kenneth Chamberlain Junior