We’re once again preparing to observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and although this is always as good a time as ever to reflect on race relations, this year I’m most concerned with discussing how we relate to each other—particularly what we teach our young Black men.
Are we doing enough to save our sons? Wait a moment before you respond. Sit with the question for a minute and then try to follow my logic here. Now, let me ask you again: Are we, as Black Americans, doing enough to save our young brothas from senseless deaths at the hands of careless strangers? (How many times do we have to see this happen on the news?) Have we done our jobs by telling them that they are still unwelcomed visitors in a country that they call home? Have we warned them enough times that their rights end when someone in authority says so? Have we educated our boys about the fact that they won’t have the privilege of getting a pass on a brush with the law because the law wasn’t designed for them?
I’m posing the question because of my own recent experience. You see, a couple of months ago an unfamiliar vehicle stalled in front of my house. Two young men got out of the car and came to the front door and rang the doorbell. It was very dark outside and I was home alone, so I opted not to open the door. As I peeked curiously through the blinds, watching them walk away I could see that they were both Black and one was wearing a dark colored hoodie. Seeing that they were men of color caused me to become conflicted and I reconsidered opening the door.
While I was teetering with my decision, I saw the fellas looking around, seemingly trying to decide which house to approach next. I found myself hoping and praying that they didn’t go over to my gun toting, confederate flag flying, vicious dog owning next door neighbor’s house. I instinctively knew that situation could turn into a leading story on the 11 o’clock news. I was immensely relieved when they crossed the street and approached the home of a nice Black couple I know. I felt this was a much safer choice.
For days after this incident, I was taunted by the idea that I might have played a part in yet another senseless shooting. I mean, when I chose not to open the door, I didn’t know the young men were Black. But quite frankly I don’t think it would have made a difference if I had known. I simply wasn’t willing to risk my safety to help a stranger at my door.
But later, when I found out the young men lived in my neighborhood, I was puzzled as to why they didn’t just walk to their own homes. Then again, I’m not so sure that was any safer for them than going door-to-door. Even still, I wonder if those guys have any idea how much danger they were in that night. You see, that is my entire point. I’m just not sure we are doing our job as a community to educate them about the risks they face daily, and if so, are they even listening?
No, I don’t want our young brothas to live in fear, but I would like them to live with a sense of caution. A caution displayed by not walking the streets at night in unfamiliar neighborhoods. The kind of caution that is also shown by not rolling from the club six-deep in one car at 3a.m smoking those funny little cigarettes. I mean demonstrating a degree of caution that indicates that these young Black men clearly understand that they live in an unjust country full of people that would just as soon murder them in cold blood then to throw a wayward glance in their direction.
Now, once again, back to my original question. Are we as Black Americans doing enough to save our young Black men? While I believe they are entitled to take full advantage of all the freedoms and rights that this country has to offer them, the reality is… they simply cannot. At least not without putting themselves in grave danger. Are we doing enough? I simply think not. So, what do we do?