I have to avoid the comment sections lately (see word to the wise below), but these last ten days of US news have been very disturbing to say the least. Not too far in the past one of my own sons was questioned by police officers while he and his friends stood on a curb debating which house was the house of their mutual friend. Nobody had the guts to just go knock and find out. You know, kids can be socially awkward. And oddly enough, nobody had a cell phone on them at the time. They were however wearing hoodies, and the awkward teens looked suspicious to a lady who owned the car they were standing near.
I’m sorry to say that the thing that probably saved them from too much trouble was they all were white. Had they been black boys in hoodies in the Trayvon Martin days, in our tiny town in Central PA, a community with very few black residents, I am certain it would be a different story.
Did Michael Brown rob a store? Video evidence seems inconclusive. Did officer Darren Wilson know about the robbery before he stopped Brown and his friend? Reports vary. Was Wilson Assaulted? Evidence so far seems to say yes. Witness accounts conflict with each other. But since when were Swisher Sweets worth a man’s life? Did anyone see a gun in that store surveillance video? Brown was unarmed, and even if he did physically go after the officer . . . six bullets pumped into him? Really? How many bullets does it take to stop an unarmed 18-year-old?
Of course the problem is much bigger. Statistics seem inconsistent, but USA Today reports that between 2007 and 2012 police have killed two black men per week in this country. And let’s not forget stop-and-frisk policies that target minorities. Fortunately I don’t need to teach my sons extra tips on how to act when approached by authorities.
Is rioting and looting and violence a proper response? Of course not. But if you want to incite a riot it seems the best thing to do is dress up in riot gear.
Okay, enough from me. Let’s hear from a better poet. I shared this poem as part of my MLK Day post back in January, but it’s been on my mind all week. Sterling A. Brown first published this piece in 1936. How much have things changed?
Let us forgive Ty Kendricks.
The place was Darktown. He was young.
His nerves were jittery. The day was hot.
The Negro ran out of the alley.
And so Ty shot.
Let us understand Ty Kendricks.
The Negro must have been dangerous.
Because he ran;
And here was a rookie with a chance
To prove himself a man.
Let us condone Ty Kendricks
If we cannot decorate.
When he found what the Negro was running for,
It was too late;
And all we can say for the Negro is
It was unfortunate.
Let us pity Ty Kendricks.
He has been through enough,
Standing there, his big gun smoking,
Having to hear the wenches wail
And the dying Negro moan.
by Sterling Brown
Partisan Review, 3 (October, 1936), p. 220-21.
Published in the Collected Works of Sterling Brown in 1980.
Word to the Wise: If you plan on leaving argumentative comments on this post I assure you I will delete them. Discussion is fine, encouraged even, but ultimately I’m the author and editor of this blog and while your constitutional right to free speech protects you from governmental intervention, it doesn’t allow you to say whatever you want wherever you want. It doesn’t protect you from the consequences of being a hateful jerk, nor does it protect you from me in the comment section.