I’m angry. I’m a mother of black sons and I’m angry. 2015 was eye-opening for too many. Last year young black men were dropping like flies at the hands of those who lied about serving and protecting. Suddenly, the N-word that Jay-Z claimed he and his generation were taking and using to empower the black male has been taken back and reclaimed, its original connotation like a banner for racists who don’t bother to wear hoods anymore. Now, little white girls print the letters on tee shirts and use the word for photo ops.
I sat and listened as a group of young men bemoaned the arrest of a fellow friend and college classmate. He’d been pulled over in his girlfriend’s car for a broken taillight. When asked if the officer could search the car, he gave consent, knowing that he had no reason to be concerned. Minutes later he was surrounded by two other patrol cars, the officer claiming dried, crushed leaves on the floor board had to be remnants of marijuana. After being handcuffed and held on the ground, the young man walked away with three citations to appear in court, a $1500 bill for legal counsel to fight the allegations and his feelings bruised at how he’d been treated as he left home heading to his second job of the day. All charges were thrown out but the stigma of it all has left this young man bitter and angry. Knowing that the local police delight in playing with their lives, using them for quota practice, had them all questioning why they even bother to try and do right.
The young men began to recite their individual tales of police harassment and as the mother of black sons I got angry. One young man no longer feels comfortable riding with his long-time girlfriend at night. Twice now they’ve been stopped, the police asking her to exit the car to question if she was being held against her will. Apparently with her pale complexion, hazel eyes and natural blonde afro she looks like she might be in trouble when riding with her Hershey’s chocolate male friend. When she questioned the officers reason for being concerned he actually said something about them being together just not looking kosher.
Another was so excited to show off his brand new car. He’d worked hard to be rewarded with a vehicle of his own and after all the add-on’s he had a real show piece on his hand. For him, going from his home to the corner store is like navigating a land mine. One weekend he was stopped a total of six times because he and the car his parents gifted him, looked suspicious.
These are good kids. A few have been guilty of doing some really stupid things. But what teenager hasn’t done dumb a time or two? But suddenly, black youth are being criminalized for breathing, their mere presence hazardous to their own health. Their degradation isn't unique to the South or the small towns because on a daily basis there are reports of similar situations happening nationwide. Their mistreatment of young black boys and men and the presumption of their guilt starts earlier and earlier and knowing that a ten-year-old can lose his life by cop for playing with a toy, should make us all angry as hell.