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A Black Man's Thoughts On America: 'I Am Afraid But I'm Not Deterred'

Life & Travel

Currently, I’m sitting at work with a heavy heart and continuously shifting emotions between anger, sadness and confusion. I don’t know how else to cope with this other than to do what has helped me since I was a kid…write.


THIS IS FOR ANYONE WHO BELIEVES THAT EQUALITY ISN’T AN OPTION.

It's becoming routine to wake up every morning and learn that another Black man has fallen victim to the guns of police officers.

Ugandan Alfred Olango, was mentally ill, a father and the head restaurant cook at Hooters. Alfred was shot and killed in a public shopping center in El Caljon, California after police received a call from Olango's sister that he was ‘not acting like himself’. While witnesses and his sister said that Alfred was unarmed and having a seizure, police said Olango was behaving erratically and endangering citizens by walking in traffic as well as refusing multiple instructions by the first officer on the scene to remove his hand from his pocket. Once a second officer drew a Taser, Olango drew an object from his pants pocket and took upon a shooting stance in which he was then tased and shot 5 times.

40-year old Terrence Crutcher's SUV stalled in the middle of the road as he headed home from class at Tulsa Community College where he studied music. He was heavily involved in his church, sung in the choir and was a father of four who was going to school to improve his life. Once police arrived to check on the situation, he was shot and killed by the female police officer on the scene. According to officer Shelby, he ignored her commands several times and attempted to reach inside his truck before she fired her weapon. Dash cam footage shows Crutcher with his hands in the air walking towards his truck, not reaching inside of it.

His hands were in the air and he was unarmed at the time of shooting.

43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a police officer, who was responding to a separate call for a domestic disturbance, while he was waiting for his son to come home from school. According to his family and witnesses, Keith was unarmed, sitting in his truck and reading a book. Officers said that Scott did not have a book and was repeatedly told to drop his "weapon" before being shot to death when he didn’t follow their orders. A father of 7 and married for 20 years, Keith was disabled and often walked with a cane and a book, following the same routine of waiting in his truck for his children to get off the bus.

Alton Sterling spent nearly 5 years of his life in front of the Baton Rouge Triple S Food Mart and was attacked, pinned down, and shot in the chest by police officers on that fatal Tuesday. According to the store owner who developed a relationship with Sterling, he had a generous heart, was well known and loved in the community as the “CD man”, and never got into any altercation on the premises.

5 Years.

Philando Castile worked in J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Minnesota for the past 12+ years as the cafeteria supervisor and has been nothing short of a hard worker and beloved member of the faculty. He was stopped for a broken taillight and that escalated to a round being let off in his chest in front of his baby girl and girlfriend.

12 years.

I’ve watched each video once. That’s all it took. One moment with a stranger in a badge who knows nothing about you or your past, can alter everything forever. I never jump to conclusions and I never speak without knowing the facts first.

Here are the only facts that I need and the only facts that matter in both of these situations:

These VICTIMS are Black.

The VICTIMS weren’t causing or involved in any criminal activity at the time of the incidents, according to witnesses.

The KILLERS are cops who are non-black and anti-black.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time an incident involving non-black police officers and Black men resulted in RIP and a hashtag for a bullet-riddled brother. I fear it won’t be

the last. I feel as though my people are trapped in a vicious cycle. Some Caucasian police are racist, biased, or fearful towards people of color. People of color are aware and resentful of law enforcement based on events from the past. High tension situations cause police’s actions to be guided by what they THINK is or could occur based on that initial fear hashtag, another Black life gone.

So now I’m sitting here, with my college degree, full time job, and ample potential, wondering when the day will come that I’ll finally be measured by the content of my character and not the melanin in my cells. It’s so ironic. I’ve been deemed “different” by my white counterparts. You know how it goes, “You’re Black but you aren’t like Black, Black” and of course “You don’t talk Black”. I speak intelligently because I am intelligent. I have sense because it’s the way I was raised. But admittedly, even I have fallen victim to a false sense of security that, “White people like me so I’m fine.”

Undoubtedly, we form opinions of others the moment we see them. I’m now convinced that the opinion formed of me when I’m seen by a police officer is that I’m dangerous until proven to be a non-threat. They don’t care that I’m a high performer at work, have graduated from a prestigious university, and try to set the example for the younger generations of all races and ethnicities.

I am Black.

Somehow, that’s more than enough information for the police.

I don’t have the answer(s) and God knows I wish I did. But I found it so fitting that the community in Minnesota gathered outside the mansion of their governor, Mark Dayton, early Thursday morning to enlist him to “WAKE UP".  That’s a tune that we as a people have been singing since we broke our backs in the cotton fields as slave-owners broke up our families.

IS THIS LOUD ENOUGH FOR YOU TO HEAR US YET?

We are a proud, proud people, and like every other race or ethnicity, we too have our fair share of blemishes on our rap sheet. However, we are secondary citizens in this country and as of late, it’s never been more prevalent.

My people are encompassed in a system that is designed for us to have a few options:

Dunk.

Rap.

Go to jail.

Beg.

Or die.

 

And I hate to say that one of God’s gifts to an individual is a curse but now you have the responsibility to represent all of us.

Image source: Lenny Kravitz

 

To the Lebrons, Jay-zs, Beyonces, Cam Newtons, etc. of our generation, we need you because you have the largest voices and the most influence. Use your platform to demand answers and action. We’re done asking.

[Tweet "Use your platform to demand answers and action. We’re done asking."]

I love America for all of the opportunities my family has been afforded. My parents worked for every single thing that we have. I know I’m still extremely blessed to have been granted such a high quality of life. My folks raised my siblings and me to never forget where we came from and never settle for anything less than what God has for us. I’m determined to leave this place better than I found it but I feel America doesn’t love me back.

[Tweet "They don’t love my black."]

Fear isn’t the only thing to fear anymore. Seems as if the only thing to fear is what’s sworn to protect us.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid this is only going to lead to violence in the streets amongst Blacks and Whites. A new aged civil war is imminent unless we act now. And please, please understand that this is not simply for my Black community but for all communities that know we are one race, the HUMAN race.

For now, I’m very confused and my heart aches with a certain numbness… But my faith is strong that there will be better days.

[Tweet "I’m afraid, but I’m not deterred."]

This land is OUR land and we will not go quietly into the night.

_____________________________

DeNard is a 2015 graduate of Fordham University with a double major in Applied Accounting & Finance. He is, currently, residing in NYC and working in the field of IT. @DenardJPinckney  

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