By Irma McClaurin
Special to the NNPA from Insight News
They are not insurgents. They are not enemy combatants. They are not hostile enemy forces. They are not terrorists. They are our Black sons. And I beg you America to stop killing them in their own backyards, in the streets outside of nightclubs, on the phone talking to their girlfriend, and a few blocks from convenience stores from which they may or may not have stolen cigars. They do not deserve to die for such trivial incidents.
America, the young Black men you kill are our future and potential scientists and doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs; they are our future bus drivers, train conductors, teachers, garbage men, mechanics, cable TV guys, the clerk at the neighborhood grocery stores. Whatever their roles in the future, large or small, they do not deserve to die.
It is true. Some of our Black sons are misdirected and misguided, to be sure. But doesn’t every society have those disaffected youth who may follow the path to crime and violence? A few of them may deserve to be labelled thugs and hoodlums, but this is not every Black male child born, and our country says they are innocent until proven guilty. Even the “bad apples” don’t deserve to be gunned down and die like animals in the streets.
Do we condemn every White young disaffected 21-year-old male because of Columbine; Aurora, Tucson, Fort Hood, and most recently Newtown? No. In their article, “White Men have much to discuss about mass shootings, Charlotte and Harriet Childress point out that White boys and men are often given a pass and attention turned to mental health issues, rather than the fact that disproportionately, White men have been involved in mass shooting sprees. Yet, they are not racially profiled.
You would never know it from the images of Ferguson, but this is not Iraq. We are not living in Afghanistan. This is not the Gaza Strip. This is the United States of America and Ferguson, Mo. So who gave ipso facto permission? In other words, what powers that be authorized today’s policemen, living in small town America in the heartland, to function like trained military and to treat our young Black sons as if they were terrorists and the enemy without justification or evidence?
Today’s policemen are under tremendous stress complicated by the individual backgrounds of those in uniform. The proliferation of racial profiling, the ongoing killing of young Black men point to an epidemic of violence in which White police officers (and some troubled men of color) use their uniform and their role as police officers not to protect society and its citizens but to mete out discipline to those Black male bodies they have come to associate with violence. Who turned society’s peacekeepers into judge, jury and executioners that can shoot the unarmed in the back and use petty crimes to justify their horrendous actions?
America has failed Black men because it has not lived up to its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens. America has decided that Black men’s lives are disposable, and so it has built a prison industrial complex that privately profits from mass incarceration instead of spending that money on better public schools, on salaries for teachers who believe in their students, on job training and a youth service corps for unemployed urban and rural youth, and on inner city youth programs that encourage success and courage and instill pride, loyalty and respect.
Throughout our history Black men in America have been enslaved, lynched, used as strike breakers, incarcerated for petty crimes, discouraged from having big dreams, unemployed at three times the rate of White men, hired last and laid off first, paid lower wages for the same work as White men, incarcerated longer and receiving harsher sentences for the same crimes as white men, ten times more likely to be stopped by the police for bogus reasons, stopped repeatedly and harassed for minor traffic violations, and now they are routine target practice for police who take out their own white supremacy rage, their racism and sense of vigilante justice under the guise of protecting the public.
Law enforcement or the police have never been viewed by the Black community as a source of protection. In truth, Black communities have felt the need to be protected from the very forces sworn to uphold justice. Police don’t respond to violence in Black communities with the same degree of commitment as they do to their own White communities. Too often White policemen have terrorized Black men whom they considered “uppity” through lynching and other means of regulating Black male bodies.
Lest you forget, not too far in the past it was policemen who upheld and reinforced segregation and sanctioned lynching. Lest you forget, it was policemen who occupied the highest ranks of the Ku Klux Klan and it was policemen who turned fire hoses and unleashed dogs on peaceful Black civil rights demonstrators. Why should Black America trust the police?
Even recently with Black and Latino policemen among their ranks, there is no equal justice for our Black sons. Stepping into the police uniform renders these policemen of color senseless and they adopt the crowd mentality that all Black men are suspect, suspicious, thugs, druggies, anti-authoritarian hip hoppers, and in need of police control – translation: they need to be beat down like beasts. And so they kill our Black sons.
Black men are thrown in jail for carrying small amounts of recreational drugs while White men in suburbia are sent to rehab. Police follow Black men around the streets without probable cause because they assume that all Black men are up to no good. Policemen even kill their own (a Black policeman) for firing a weapon when out of uniform because there is no such thing as a Black man with a legitimate reason for having a gun. Police routinely racially profile Black men as a group, yet have not developed a profile of the type of young White men most likely to commit mass murder at their schools.
Doing this kind of profiling might require that they look in the mirror and acknowledge that there are a lot of angry White men wearing badges who resent the legislation and changes in the country that they believe have reduced their White privilege and sense of entitlement.
Many of these angry White men wear badges and may have been socialized from childhood to believe that the only good Black man is a dead one. No amount of Police Academy training can erase years of pent-up racism, White supremacy thinking, a sense of entitlement to White privilege and uncontrollable rage that it is a Black man who now holds the highest office in the country.
Today is a day of mourning. Unfortunately, Michael Brown is not the first, and he will not be the last Black son of America who dies. Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo. has become an iconic symbol for the injustices that Black boys and men face, just as Emmett Till became almost 60 years ago.
As the mother of a Black son, I weep not only for the mother of Michael Brown, I also weep for Trayvon Martin’s mother, and the mothers of all those young Black men who unjustly have fallen at the hands of America’s police. When will it stop? When will America regain its sanity as a society, and stop? Until there are answers, I will let my tears fall and mingle with those of the many Black mothers here and all over the world who have but one request: Stop killing our Black sons. Stop it. Now!
Irma McClaurin is the Culture and Education editor for Insight News. She is an activist anthropologist, writer and proponent of diversity leadership. She currently resides in Charlottesville, Va.