******* [Updated June 8, 2015] ********
Once again I find myself answering that question, ‘Why Are The Black Youth So Angry?’ From white radio show hosts who have me on their shows to various white friends and business associates, even a few black individuals who come to me because we are Black Westchester. I hear, ‘you say news with a black point of view, so we’re asking you, because we don’t understand.’ After the Eric Garner and Mike Brown episodes I wrote an editorial titled, ‘White People Can’t Comprehend – The Deadly Consequences of Being Black!’ It wasn’t popular with some white and even some black people, but hey, you asked!
Now I find myself writing another editorial instead of answering the questions individually. I would like to present another piece of the puzzle to prayerfully bring further clarification and understanding. Let me first make this disclaimer again here: BW DOES IN NO WAY ADVOCATE THE DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY AND RIOTING! But like Chris Rock once said, while I don’t agree (with their course of action), I do understand.
Let me paint a picture for you. Lets take a 15-year-old black teen, who was born in the year 2000. Since he has been born he has seen countless cases of senseless murders of black males across the country on the news. Not to mention the acts of police misconduct and police criminality he has viewed or experienced first hand in his own community. Now this same young black boy who has been told over and over, anger is not the way to solve the problem and probably been told or taught to allow the system to handle things the right way, has seen the system fail over and over again.
Now in 2008, when he turns eight, he witnesses the election that puts the first African-American president in the White House. He hears his elders, parents, aunts and uncles, teachers and preachers talk about a new day, rappers even make records with titles like My President Is Black. Despite all he has seen and experienced, he has new hope and maybe even some faith that things are going to change. Then he sees countless more black lives lost at the hands of law enforcement. But when he is ready to lose all hope in the system, he is told once again to allow the system to do what its suppose to do. Grand juries fail to indict any of these officers, when they do indict, the officers are never convicted, few lose their jobs or even their pay. Even the ones on modified duty, still collect a pay check and can even work overtime. Everyone now and then one will retire to protect his pension from any lawsuits that might come.
In 2010 when he was 10, an African-American college student, Danroy ‘DJ’ Henry was murdered by a white officer. In 2011 when he was 11, he saw the coverage of the killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., who after his Life Aid medical alert necklace was inadvertently triggered, police came, broke down his door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. The saw and heard the tape of the police calling the 68-year-old, African-American, retired former-Marine, and a 20-year veteran of the Westchester County Dept. of Corrections, a nigger and the DA’s office saying the use of that word was a tactic to distract him. He is left thinking the cops can just call me a Nigger and kill me.
Now this teen is 14-years-old and Eric Garner is choked to death in Staten Island. A local resident catches the whole encounter on his cell phone and the video goes viral. The medical examiner rules Garner’s death a homicide which is defined as the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another; murder. So if ever there was a reason to muster up that last bit of hope, this would be it. Home run right, this one should be knocked right out the park. Plus my president is black and we even have a black Attorney General. A special grand jury is convened to hear the case, oh this is all everyone has been asking for, it’s a done deal right. These officers are going to pay, there is no way they’re going to walk right? WRONG, like a sucker punch you never see coming that almost knocks you out – the announcement is, the grand jury declined to indict the officers.
Now I’ve heard many members in the media and those on the outside looking in say, the national guard was called in because these individuals tore up the city. Former NYC Mayor, Giuliani blames the Black Community for the reason these communities are heavily policed by white police officers from outside their community. “…because of Black on Black crime this is why so many White officers are in the Black community, You want less white police in your community, stop committing crime,” Giuliani says on Meet The Press. Another slap in the face!
Well lets use that logic to explain whats going on, basically its the for-every-action-there-is-a-reaction-response that gets thrown out there to excuse these actions. But take this young 15-year-old black teen, who all his life all he has seen is police misconduct, police criminality, black lives lost at the hands of the police and then the justice system that has not been fair in dealing with his peers, in addition to having to deal with gangs, bullying and peer pressure. The system that he has been told to trust to do the right things but has consistently failed to bring about any justice and hold any of this criminal cops accountable. At some point you stop listening to the let the system handle it the right way excuse. You stop believing altogether in the system that has failed when it comes to the black community and bringing justice for the black lives lost.
You see cases in your community where some (NOT ALL) but some have been falsely charged and convicted like Peekskill’s Jamar Smythe who served four years for a crime he didn’t commit because the police lied and falsified evidence at his trial. Your 15-year-old now, you watch a black man named Walter Scott shot in the back several times and see an officer attempt to plant evidence, but the incident was video taped. You see the police literally break the back of a man named Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and now you do not have a reason to believe the system is going to do anything different from what it has always done since you’ve been born. Unfortunately most or not even taught how to survive a police confrontation.
Let’s toss in a few systematic conditions to the mix like poverty, crime, systematic racism, single parent homes, lack of a quality education, low graduation rates, unemployment, and many who manage to find work are greatly underpaid, a system that is designed for more of them to go to prison than college, just to name a few. Then you have incidents like the police criminality in Texas where the white cop went wild over too many black teens in white neighborhood for a pool party, and you ask me why the youth are so angry? What you get is a recipe for frustration, hopelessness and disaster. This generation has more of a sense of hopelessness then they did in the 60’s.
As far as you are concerned the system doesn’t care about you. Even when there are peaceful protests, the media only shows the bad and never the good. You feel extremely frustrated and due to cuts in local and state budget there is no legitimate outlet for that frustration. With each black live lost at the hand of the police, its like the paper cut that never heals. Each incident re-opens the cut, until now its a major gash that needs something much bigger that a band-aid to close. So to those who ask me why, I throw that For-Every-Action-There-Is-A Reaction reply back in your face.
How long can a group of people who have had a foot on the back of their neck holding them down, stay calm and not have a reactionary response and desire to change the situation at any means necessary. What do you do when all else has failed. And remember we are not talking about grown-ups here, we are talking about those youth who are still trying to figure out life, who have seen the system fail them over and over again.
Does this have some sort of physiological effect of our youth. One has to wonder if young black males seeing their peers, young men that look like them, killed by the police all their life have the same mental anguish that slaves had when they were they were forced to witnessed the lynching other male slaves who tried to escape as a method of behavior modification. Perhaps the same effect soldiers have from being in war and seeing and having to cause so much death. And you ask me why the black youth of today are so angry?
BW’s publisher Damon K. Jones and Editor-In-Chief AJ Woodson spoke to students at a local elementary after the death of Eric Garner, see the video below to hear their responses. Every parent, teacher and even law enforcement officers should watch this.