Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | 08:48 AM
Commentary: Another Black Youth Dies, Now What?
By now, you should be aware that 7-year-old Aiyana Jones was killed by officers of the Detroit Police Department, as they raided her family's home early Sunday morning. The specific details surrounding her death are not clear yet, nor will they be until the family is able to speak freely. What we know for sure: a sleeping girl was burned by a "flashbang grenade" and then shot in the head and neck because the police were attempting to capture the suspect in the shooting death of a 17-year-old. Another senseless loss. It's important that we not allow our anger to manifest itself as blind hatred towards the police. There is an unfortunate cycle of distrust and abuse that exists between Blacks and the law; not surprising, given that we have been unfairly policed since our arrival on these shores. The people who are charged with protecting our communities often maintain order like zookeepers taming wild animals. And our people are often guilty of treating the police with contempt even if they haven't done anything wrong. The long standing beef between the cops and the community is dangerous to us and we are the ones who suffer. But we can't save our children from meeting the fate of Aiyana Jones by repeating the tired "f---the police" song and dance. Black people will call the cops to mediate a petty argument with a neighbor, but hesitate to file a complaint when a cop has disrespected them. It's important that the people who are walking our streets with guns and a badge are subject to the law that they have sworn to uphold and that they don't abuse their power. When they do, we MUST take action. Cadets must be taught in the police academy that Black people are not criminals until proven innocent. The community also has the responsibility of ensuring that we are adequately represented in the judicial system, from the police departments, to the district attorney's office and beyond. We cannot allow White, suburban males to be the primary group patrolling our neighborhoods and then expect that we will be treated fairly. Go the South Side of Chicago, to Bed Stuy, to North Philly. Go see how many of our young brothers are sitting on the corner doing absolutely nothing. Imagine if some of these men were to join the force. They know our faces, they know our stories. When my dad was 16 years old and a member of the Black Panther Party, a White police officer told him that he'd killed two people already and wouldn't hesitate to make him the third: "If you ever find yourself in a pool of blood, I did it." Some years later, my father joined the Chicago Police Department so that he might protect 16 year old boys. He made it his business until he retired to be what he called "thorn in the side of the beast" and to provide our people the service they deserve. The relationship between Black people and law enforcement is a hostile and complicated one and tragedies like the death of Aiyana Jones further the dissent. However, we don't honor this sweet baby girl with a bunch of anti-cop lip service. We can't live without the police and thus, we must figure out how to best live with them. Our children deserve action so that we might prevent this from happening again. Jamilah Lemieux writes about race and culture on her blog, The Beautiful Struggler.