“What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget!”
— “The Way We Were”
The Tuskegee Institute documented 3,436 black people lynched between 1882 and 1950., and it may have been more. Picnics, celebrations, dinners, music, dancing, laughing and photo post cards were part of this ritual of carnage. This led to the creation of the NAACP.
Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Stephon Clark and Tamir Rice are only a few names eulogized as choirs sang “Take My Hand Precious Lord,” “Amazing Grace” and “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.”
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Tragically, 10,000 black men are killed each year.
Folks quietly walk behind shiny, black limousines during unforeseen family reunions. Rivers flowing from watery eyes are mirrors of broken hearts.
We have become numb, sighing with nervous relief that Baltimore, New York, Baton Rouge, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jackson, Birmingham, New Orleans, Newark and Chicago, but not our own cities, have the most deaths.
However, as old folks say, “What goes around comes around.”
Eulogies, long sermons, flowers, repasts, money in envelopes, prayers, sympathy cards and well-wishers are not able to bring solace.
A mother weeps out of control for a son dressed in a black suit, white shirt, ebony neck tie with excessive make up. (He looks so peaceful.) She wants her son to smile again, laugh and tell more silly jokes. She remembers the first time she heard his heart beat.
Nothing brings comfort, because history foretells it will repeat itself. The parents of boys, brown, black and darker than blue feel the weight of cinder blocks on their chests every time their sons leave home with a swagger, hoodie and sense of invincibility. The nightly news, the ringing of the phone or doorbell make the heart beat faster until their baby walks through the door.
Fathers, too, can’t keep sons alive. Perhaps, lessons were not strong enough to instill the assumption of guilt, of being labeled as oversexed potential rapists, liars, thieves or criminals. The avoidance of quick movements is only one of the essential skills needed to avoid being shot and killed: Reaching for a cell phone/toy gun. Driving while Black. Looking at someone’s girl friend. Making eye contact. Walking in the wrong neighborhood. Dating the wrong girl. Beating others in sports. Wearing the wrong clothes. Being too big, too muscular, too dark. Living, breathing and existing
Despite evidence of innocence, our young men are too often shot in the back, heart or torso. Complaints are ridiculed, even with eye witnesses or video tapes, as playing the race card. When you are dead, there is no card to play.
Black and brown men and women lying on the ground handcuffed are no different from slaves chained by the hands and feet. History is black America’s current reality. The complicity of America’s silence and institutionalized 500 milligram medications of guilt guarantees the killings will continue.
Thus, men emboldened by arrogance, erroneously believe a tweet, entitlement by birth and court rulings divinely entitle them to to kill with immunity. James Bond had a license to kill, but that was in the movies. This is real life/death.
We shall overcome some day. What day?
Henry J. Pankey is a national education consultant and former Durham Public Schools principal of the year for his work at Southern High School.