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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reflections From A Black Man

Another event of a young unarmed black male killed by police action occurred recently.    This morning, more violence in Ferguson as two non Ferguson police officers were shot while supporting efforts to keep peace in Ferguson. This after the findings of the United States Justice Department review of the Ferguson, Missouri police department were announced.  The Justice Department's findings confirmed that racist views and actions existed among police and civilian employees of the Ferguson police department.  The findings were not surprising since last years comments by black residents of Ferguson and initial data regarding who was being stopped by Ferguson police already had confirmed that African Americans in Ferguson were being treated differently due to their race.

With continued instances of unarmed people being killed, I do wonder what type of training do police generally go through as to to when to use their firearm and whether that training is adequate?  Are the police given the leeway to make bad judgments under the banner of fearing for their life?  Is it okay to shoot when in doubt or choke someone to death if they display any type of resistance?  Before being hired are police screened for their viewpoints about various races, cultures, and behaviors that people display?

What impact do these news stories about unarmed black men being killed by police have on young African American men?  One thing is sure, it should emphasize to African American men that black men should not give the police any opportunity to even think about using their weapon.  Don't approach a policeman so even though he is armed and you are not, he feels "threatened".  Keep your hands in plain view so that it is obvious that you are not going for a weapon.   Then any excuse that the police feared for their life becomes a non existent excuse.  The "fear" excuse then becomes an act of hatred by the police if they discharge their weapon or use any other type of force on a compliant person.

In the early 1970s as a teenager I constantly heard on the news or read in news reports that the probability of me as a black teenager living beyond age 30 was something I should not count on.  I recall that the news reports were that for my future the chances of my either being dead or in jail were high.  I was not presented with the positive images that my chances of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or successful business man were high.  I was not presented with information that my future would lead to going to college, owning a home, or having a job with a six figure salary.  Instead it was a constant public deluge of negativity.

My response to this was to pursue the positives.  The traditional success stories for black men that I recall hearing about in the 1960s was that entertainment and sports were the best options for a good career for black men.  But, I was not a world class singer, and had no special athletic skills.  My parents had minimum wage jobs.  I do recall that the best thing I had going for me was attending a Catholic school rather than being enrolled in the  public school educational system.  I flourished under the academic rigors of Catholic school.  It became clear to me that education would be my ticket to a prosperous life.  I had no other options.  I was not going to get a basketball scholarship to college, have a pro career in the NBA and I would not be a teen singing sensation going to work for Motown.  So, I studied in school and through the college educational system connected into a career in Human Resources working for the Federal government.  I continued to learn and apply myself during my career.  Long hours and a dedication to the craft allowed my career to prosper.

Even in retirement I still have goals and ambitions.  I desire to travel and see parts of the world in person that I have only seen via TV or photographs.  There is still much to learn and much to do. While I am in good health and financially stable I continue to live.  Every news report about a black unarmed man being killed calls me to action to continue to attempt to  contribute in a positive manner.  We will not go away and disappear.  We will not be swept into a corner of negativity and be told that we cannot achieve or survive.  Our accomplishments are many.  We just need to spread the positive results of our actions, ourselves.