A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening, as I sat reading my apartment, I heard what sounded like several teens yelling obscenities toward each other outside.
Their interaction was mostly incoherent, and I don’t believe they were fighting about anything. All I could really make out was them shouting out profanity extremely loud and directing it at each other. Now, I’m definitely not a saint in regards to the foul language department, but the excessiveness at which they were cussing was even making me, a former habitual foul-mouther, blush.
I heard my neighbor, an elderly gentleman, open his door and shout out to the young boys to watch their language. I myself try lay off scolding other people’s children. I don’t do so, not because I do want to (in a constructive and loving way if it’s deserved). It’s not because I’m scared the child will get mad at me. It’s because I know what happens to black men who display anger or aggression in public even if it’s perceived and by someone as such, when it’s not literal in nature. I’d go more into detail about the consequences of that, but I know that you, reader, can figure out on out on your own.
However, if I really feel there’s a situation where I need to step in and correct a child on their behavior, then, it’s my inherent duty to do so.
And, at this point, the children heard my neighbor’s request and ignored it. They continued to spew out obscenities anyway, and disrespecting elderly people (my neighbor is up there in age) is something I don’t tolerate. Also, I knew that if I could hear them, the children living my complex probably could also. And, I definitely didn’t want children being exposed to that kind of language.
So, I saw it as a situation where I needed intervene. Now initially with the way they were potty-mouthing with each other, I originally assumed it was a group of teenagers until I opened the door and saw five kids who couldn’t have been older than eleven or twelve. The group consisted of 4 white kids and 1 black kid.
Originally, my intent was to walk over to them and to tell them that they needed to respect the residents like how they would like to be respected and that their language made them sound ignorant and hateful. However, once I saw the black child, my whole assessment of the situation shifted greatly.
In that moment, it was no longer a matter of “just getting some rowdy kids to pipe down;” it became a matter of life and death for that young black boy. Now, some of you out there have no idea of the correlation I’m applying when I say that. Y’all are thinking to yourselves, “What does a group of boys showing out have to do with the situation being deadly or not?”
And, the fact that you’re asking that question is telling of your lack of knowledge on just how systematic racism operates in America, either because you’ve been distracted from examining it at every turn and corner of life or because you’ve had the privilege of never having to deal with the direct consequences of it.
What I saw–what I have to see living as a black man in America–was the potential and high probability for a chain of events to occur, which would likely proceed as such:
Someone calls the cops saying that there is this angry black man (black children are regularly judged and seen as being adults), leaving out that they’re also white kids, ranting a raving and that they believe he might be about to hurt someone.
The cops head to the scene with the notion that they’re dealing with a hostile suspect.
They confront the child, and they see the kid has an object in-hand, immediately draw their guns, and tell him to “drop his weapon.”
The child, being confused about what “weapon” he is holding (it’s probably a toy or phone) is mortified by the experience and freezes up like a deer in headlights.
They proceed to shoot the child in an excessive and needless manner, killing them in cold blood.
The cop states to the jury that he “feared for his life“, and the mostly white jury, who is perfectly aware the cop is guilty, sides with law enforcement. The cop doesn’t get indited.
The cop, who has been on paid leave the entire time, is allowed back on the force.