Saturday, November 29

A Path We Can No Longer Follow...

August 9th.  18 year old Michael Brown fatally shot in the middle of the street in Ferguson, Missouri. November 22. 12 year old Tamri Rice fatally shot on the playground of a recreation center in Cleveland, Ohio. Similarities: both were back youth. Both were killed by white police officers. The details surrounding both tragic occurrences continue to be debated, centering on who was right and who was in the wrong. After the smoke from the smoldering ruins of the burned out buildings of Ferguson have been lost to the winter winds and the stinging tears have dried from the eyes of the loved ones who morn the loss of young Tamri, the larger question remains: Who among us all do not bear some responsibility for these two tragic events occurring in the first place? If this larger question remains unanswered, this nation shall revisit far too often again and again similar tragedies of unnecessary loss of life.

Beyond the facts, proved or assumed, in both incidents, lie festering realities that at base comprise the basis for the conflict of the racial divide that is today prevalent in this country. Fear and suspicion. A broad unspoken societal fear and suspicion that neither the black nor the white race as separate and distinct entities can be trusted to have the best interest of the other at heart. That we are not in this journey of life together, striving for the same things;  peace, security and tranquility. At the detriment of the other race, we must first look first and foremost to protect and preserve our own self-interest. Out of this fear and suspicion grows a cancer of assumptions that left unchecked, unexplored, and undefined rips ever widening jagged holes in the fabric of our society.

Young Tamri had in his possession a toy gun that was modified to appear to be an authentic and potentially deadly weapon, capable of doing grave bodily harm. A two-fold question arises. Of lesser consequence is what was the underlying motivation behind the toy gun being modified to appear to be a real semi-automatic pistol? Of greater concern, is why Tamri felt compelled to even be in possession of the instrument that was a leading direct consequence of his death?  "Well, he was just a boy and this was just a toy gun." He is dead and the reasoning on his part must be explained and understood, fore the argument that he was just an immature boy playing some type of game for his own entertainment cannot fully explain the underlying root causes that resulted in his death. Stark unfortunate truth: He was a black boy in a predominately black neighborhood banishing what appeared to be a deadly weapon. The unintended triggers on his part that lead to his being fatally shot. 

Arriving on the scene are two Cleveland City police officers, they having received a radio call that there was an individual in the park displaying menacingly what appeared to be a gun, that might be "fake," but was still greatly concerning those who were witnessing the behavior. That individual was 12 year old Tamri Rice. The officers confronted Tamri and directed him to put his hands up. The officers reported that Tamri failed to follow their commands and instead "reached into his waistband" to retrieve what appeared to the officers to be a handgun. Two shots rang out, one of which proved to be the fatal stomach wound to Tamri..

The questions swirling around the aftermath of this incident are many. Was the shooting justified? Could lesser measures been utilized to avert the tragic outcome? Had this been a white youth in a predominately white neighborhood, would the two white police officers have employed the same tactics? Valid questions all. 

The police would proclaim, and justifiably so, that when confronted by an individual who appears to be an immediate threat to their life and limb, they are instructed to employ whatever measures necessary in order to avert the danger, up to an including the use of deadly force. Still a 12 year old boy banishing in reality a toy gun lies on the cold playground but mere hours from breathing his last. Any person in possession of a deadly instrument of death must understand that they have at their disposal half the power of God. 

Fear, suspicion and assumptions that need not have played a role in the deaths of either Michael Brown or Tamri Rice, but were simmering just below the surface of consciousness as ingrained learned generational behaviors that feed a cancer that has spread to epidemic proportions in the chasm of our country's racial divide. 

The symptomatic causes of this racial strife are many. The proliferation of guns in our society plays a major role in fostering mistrust between the varying segments of our populace. Did Tamri adopt the gang mentality that being in the possession of a fire arm proclaims powerful unassailable masculinity? That a gun grants immediate access to being respected? Why do some whites proclaim that possessing a firearm is a mandatory necessity for self-protection? Protection from what? Marauding black gangs? In the inner-city back on black crime is daily punctuated by the deadly use of guns. Rolling into these neighborhoods come the local police agencies, forearmed with the assumption that every black individual encountered is armed and determined to defy their authority. A charged atmosphere of  mistrust permeates the encounter. As a result youth like Tamri and Michael lie bleeding in the streets. Cooperation, understanding and the deescalation of events take a back seat to immediate irrational assumption. Guns, no matter who possesses them for whatever rationalized reason, do not promote the sanctity and worthiness of life, but to the contrary renders life too often as expendable fodder for the undertakers. 

An absence of equal access to opportunity to better oneself in our free enterprise society also serves as the fuel of mistrust and resentment within the black community. It is folly for white society not to understand and grasp the undeniable reality that by the mere color of our skin and by the mere accident of birth that we sit in the front row of opportunity. Indeed recognized and applaud-able strides have been accomplished to level the playing field for all minority ethnic groups to partake in the bounty of realized self-actualization. But there remains still far too many hurdles for many of our minority citizens to overcome. By being black far too often come with strings of added requirements to gain access to opportunity that white privileged citizens are automatically afforded. Until our society fully recognizes that all its citizens have an equal right to sit at the table of opportunity in all its many varying and encompassing facets, there will continue to be an out-crying and rebellion arising from our black citizens that see their present circumstances of existence as a desperate trap and their futures bleak and void of promise. 
We must all come to an understanding that the promotion of equality of the races is all of our personal concern. Silence in the face of recognized inequality shall serve only to fuel the fires of a thousand additional Fergusons. Being merely content and quick to ascribe blame for the consequences of such acts of lawless rebellions shall never address the true causes of such acts. They will continue to lie beneath the ashes of the burned out buildings and behind the tears of those who mourn the loss of their tragically lost loved ones. A new generation of citizens must be given birth and fostered by we who see and understand the folly of our current course. A generation that embraces from birth that education is the gateway to opportunity. That access to that education, regardless of race, color or creed, must be a quality education, equal for and to all. That privilege is no longer to be regarded as a matter or skin color, but an equal right of citizenship. If together we do not purposefully grasp each others hands in this quest for equality for all, the promise of America shall never be realized and the God ordained greatness of our nation shall be lost in the dust of history. 

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." - Martin Luther King, Jr.