“I don’t care what happens today and in the future….take it all in stride…no fighting no arguing no revenge… keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself…God has you and is a righteous Judge”
My mom sent me that text message to me about 2 p.m. last Thursday, and all I could think to myself was, “What do this crazy women talking about now.” You see I was on a field trip for a class in the Ozarks. So it wasn’t until I got to my hotel room that evening, when I learned about Philando Castile on the news. Later that night, Micah Johnson killed five police officers after protest, in downtown Dallas. The people in Dallas were protesting the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, and Castile in Minnesota. That was the source of my mother stressing text message, the thing is I’ve heard that before plenty of times.
I was raise in Walnut Park area of St. Louis, Missouri. Walnut Park was and still is a low poverty, high crime section of north St. Louis. I didn’t have many encounters with police growing up or anyone in my neighborhood. The block was so bad the only time me and my six brothers and sisters could go outside, was to catch the bus to take us to school, or get in the car to go to church.
Windows became the only source of contact to the outside world around me. Out those windows I saw that my mother had good reason to keep us locked in doors most days of the year.
Across the street from my house was a crack house, and that’s not an exaggeration. Every night for about five or six years, there was some party going on involving loud music, cars parked in the middle of the street with the lights on, and fighting. Every so often an ambulance would show up, to take someone to the hospital who had been flapping on the ground like a fish out of water.
My street was the only block I could see in person, but you could hear the other blocks nearby. You could hear the gunshots, and police sirens, helicopters overhead, and every now and then, there would be a large boom like a bomb going off.
My childhood was like one of a bad kid, like detention in elementary school while everyone else outside. Expect we did nothing wrong, but exist. By the way , if I was always inside , why did my mom feel the need to constantly warn me about dealing with the police?
She would constantly tell me a my brothers and sisters, ” Its yes ma’am, no sir, because they have the gun and they will shoot you.” She told us this time after time, and even now, I’m hearing it again. I keep hearing it, because the United States keeps reliving the same nightmare over and over. Black men being killed by white police, and never being held accountable.
On Sept 15. 1983, Michael Stewart caught an early morning train from the 14th Street subway station to his home in Brooklyn, New York. Stewart was a 25 year old graffiti artist, and according to NPR, started tagging the wall on the train with a marker. This war during New York’s ridiculous war on graffiti. He likely didn’t see the transit officer staring at him. About 3:20 am, Stewart arrived at Bellevue Hospital, in police custody hog tied, beaten with no pulse. Stewart would spend the next 13 days in a coma, where he later died.
Witnesses say they saw police beating Stewart, who weighted 140 lbs, as he was screaming for help. The police bounded his arms and legs and beat him with billy-clubs, repeatedly kicked him, and chocked him. When they finally finished, the police according to witnesses through his unconscious body into the back of a police van. A witness said his body was seen flying through the air before it hit a storage unit in the back.
His death outraged the black community New York city, and when his case went to trial, and the only black person directly involved in the trial was the deceased defendant. The judge, jury, defendants, attorneys, were all white, and the six cops were acquitted.
More black New Yorker’s became outraged and following the acquittal and forced Mayor Ed Koch to appeal for an additional investigation. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority later announced that 10 of the 11 officers deemed to be involved in the Stewart’s death, would not face any department punishment. Only the arresting office would face perjury charges.
I can’t be certain that my mom knew about that news story, knowing her well I would guess she may have only heard about it. I do know she watched the movie “Do The Right Thing”, a Spike Lee movie that was partly inspired by Stewart’s murder.
Stewart story is one that’s way to familiar to many families in this country, yet time after time it’s relived by the community, and continues to divide.
Bishop T.D. Jakes lead a prayer in downtown Dallas Friday morning, and like President Barack Obama encourage the nation to come together and love one another. The pleas come after a week of deadly gun violence in the news. Obama has been to the podium countless times to address gun violence, police brutality, and race. Still he and community leaders preach love, why? Because saying we must love each other is a easier than actually doing it. Doing it requires a very important thing, trust.
Stewart’s story is a perfect illustration of why many people, not just black people don’t trust the police or the government process. Two of the most important issues facing this country right now is police brutality and the availability of guns. Issues that must be solved simultaneously, issues that won’t be solved until trust has been earned.
Some trust was actually being earned in Dallas. During protest in Dallas unlike in Ferguson, police were not dressed in riot gear. No army tanks, no machine guns, no standoffs between police and protesters. These changes came through negotiations between the Black Lives Matter activist group and police. Johnson has likely destroyed the possibility of police interacting with protesters like that in the near future, with his actions Thursday night.
As impossible it seems, for the unrest to end, all Americans have to learn to trust the acting authority at large. However, that same constituency has to stop giving this trust away for free.
Month after month, racial outrage continues to break out across the country, because of the unlawful deaths or treatment by law enforcement. Yet during voting periods, whites and browns continue to falsely protect their own interest by allowing , lifetime incompetent politicians, to further mishandle important matters like police brutality and the availability of guns. American’s continue to elect judges, police chiefs, senators, congressman, they don’t know or don’t care to get to know to be in charge in their own neighborhood. Then we have the nerve to be surprised when chaos continues to happen.
We are all at fault for this problem. Its everyone fault that we don’t have the trust necessary to govern ourselves. It’s our faults that people with no common sense have the ability to get whatever high powered gun available to commit heinous crimes. It’s also our fault that people in this country ignore issues of inequality. It will continue to be our fault that bodies fill the space at morgues at alarming rates, by mass shooting and police violence.
As impossible as it sounds, the only way solve these issues is trust. Not much trust either. Just enough to end unrest. That amount would compare to the amount of trust a parent would need in their preteen children alone in the house while they go to the store. Enough trust to accomplish the task quickly, return home, and know the house won’t burn down while they are gone.Just enough trust where you can go to work, spend a weekend vacation with your family. Knowing that it wont end because some psychopath with a grudge showed up with a machine gun.
Trust takes time, but that is the biggest challenge facing the United States today, and we will continue to face this same challenge until that small amount of trust is earned.
That is the choice, learn to trust against the obvious reasons not to, or continue to endure the same unrest next month, followed by texts from mom.