The despair, discouragement and desperation now being felt in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Falcon Heights, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas, make us acutely aware of both the daunting influence of fear and the problem that Americans have with pigmentation.
At the center of this maelstrom, churned up by the rising winds of fear, is the black man.
Africa, you may recall, is referred to as The Dark Continent. I often wonder why.
Is it because most of its descendants have dark skins? Many equate darkness and blackness with evil. So, is it logical to assume the characters of people with dark skins are similar to their color.
Go ahead, admit it! If there are two people at a crime scene, one black and one white, it is automatically assumed that the black guy did it.
Further, it has been proposed that the extra thick negro skull restricts brain growth to almost animal level. Unable to reason properly he does not grasp the meaning of hard work and responsibility. His animalistic instincts impel him to criminality. To survive he engages in petty thefts, purse snatchings, armed robberies and drug dealing.
He is, at his core a black beast,whose sole aim in life is to rape white women or shame, belittle or prostitute them. Ask any southern gentleman in the Jim Crow South.
It does not help his cause that his image seems always plastered across television screens with regard to illicit activities.
He is overly represented in prisons, places of darkness, and under represented in schools and jobs—places of light.
Therefore, we have been conditioned by the culture, for our own safety and peace of mind that, always, he should be stopped because he is a menace to society.
With our lives in danger, he should be approached with caution, carefully frisked for drugs or weapons, ever mindful to be at the ready to use deadly force if necessary.
The prevailing mindset becomes—it is us against them.
The Problem With Fear
Fear, we have been told, is “FALSE” “EVIDENCE” “APPEARING” “REAL”.
Once the cold, unfeeling, merciless hand grips your heart you will be moved to actions that are senseless and heartless. Filling every village and hamlet with its destructive force and power, its ominous shadow falls between husband and wife, between neighbors, between citizen and cops—whose sworn duty is to serve and protect their communities.
Its frightening shadow fills all things, every corner with foreboding, dread and death.
Fueled by an insatiable, pervasive media and irrational lust for negative information, we all are potential victims to this unrelenting spirit.
So, to stop its inexorable, cruel march through our lives and halt its crippling lock on our minds we turn to death as the only viable solution. Motivated by PERCEPTION, PREJUDICE and PAST HISTORY, death becomes the quickest option—a sure and permanent answer to the problem.
Death, moving swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, is an ever ready servant,always on call, prepared to terminate all possibilities and eliminate all threats.
We always seem to forget, “it is a hell of a thing, killin’ a man. We take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.” And there is no do over, no matter how sorry we feel afterwards.
The average policeman is a nervous, skittish and apprehensive individual. He feels that there is a war out there and cops are the main targets. No one has his back, from the president down to the guy in the street.
Every day he is reminded I must do what I have to do to survive.
I must get home to my family at the end of my shift.
At the end of every roll call in the morning is heard the words,”Let’s be safe out there.”
So, I’d better get him before he gets me.
Hence, the intersection between the cop and the black suspect is always tense and prone to an explosion.
On Wednesday, July 7, 2016 these two attitudes and belief systems had a tragic confrontation in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Ironically, the picture streaming on the internet of Officer Jeronimo Yanez shows him standing under an inscription on a wall. It says,”Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
As Officer Yanez approached the car with the broken tail light, he had no idea the ensuing events would forever, inextricably join his life to that of the driver, Philando Castile.
Their shattered lives would never be the same again once fear had invaded them.
Upon reaching the driver, seeing he was black, gun out of the holster, he heard,”I have a gun in the car but I have a license to carry it.”
Did the aforementioned thoughts overwhelm him? Was he overcome by the above emotions? We will never know for sure.
This is the aftermath of the interaction between Officer Yanez and citizen Castile.
In front of his confused four year old daughter and unbelieving girlfriend he pumped four bullets into the body of Mr. Castile.
This is the transcript of a grainy cell phone video shot by his horrified girlfriend Lavish Reynolds.
In a distressed voice, the officer yells, “I told him not to reach for it, I told him to get his hands up.”
Lavish Reynolds, the girlfriend, is heard crying out,”Please don’t tell me this Lord, Jesus don’t tell me he’s gone. Please Officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir.
No matter how you feel about any of the people involved, no one should suffer the death penalty for a tail light infraction nor for selling CDs on a sidewalk in Louisiana, nor for brandishing a toy gun in Ohio or hawking illegal cigarettes on the streets of New York City.
The “allowance rope of understanding” for us is very short indeed.
We, a country who hold that, “all men are created equal,” should be better than that. Unless, of course, the reach of that noble sentiment does not extend to certain men.
Nevertheless, this is the consequence of fear -- real or imagined.
People stirred up or hyped up on the drug called fear make bad irrevocable mistakes.
Today in Minnesota, two different families linked by this tragedy are writhing in agony, pain, sorrow and anger, wishing to God with all their might, “I would like to do it all over again.”
Meanwhile, we, fearful, frustrated and thinking about the futility of it all resort to the Dallas way of coping, a place more than a thousand miles away from the harrowing event in Minnesota.
The Pursuit of Justice
Fear creates a sense of injustice and the ever-abiding perception that justice is reserved for a select few.
Deanna Joseph is the mother of black deceased 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III.
He was evicted from the grounds of the Florida State Fair for being unruly and disruptive. He died while trying to cross I- 4 on the way to his home.
In an interview with a TV reporter about the events in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Minneapolis she demurred,while expressing sympathy for all the families who lost loved ones in these terrible incidents, “I know justice will be served in Dallas, I am not so sure about Baton Rouge and Minnesota.”
If we are going to endure as one nation of the people, by the people and for the people. If that lofty notion is not going to perish from the face of the earth, we must refuse to live, interact and react in fear with one another.
Justice, like her ubiquitous image, must always be color blind.
Learn well a hard lesson from the lives of Philando Castile and Jeronimo Yanez. Fear will whip you into a frenzy, leaving your mind twisted, warped, unable to reason and to make regrettable split second decisions.
The unfortunate consequence could be a dependable working man with no serious convictions other than driving while black in a primarily white suburb, is dead and unable to speak.
The other, so distraught and remorseful by his actions, he cannot or refuses to speak.
We must struggle every day for the rest of our lives to not see everything in black and white. (pun fully intended)
Yes, the color gray does exist. There are many areas in life colored by its presence. We must make everybody aware of its shade and allow them to benefit from its hue.
By the help of God, if we are going to make it, we must develop the strength and courage to do it.
V. Knowles is a husband, father and prison minister with an interest in penning issues that serve to uplift mankind. He melds his love for Classic literature, The Bible and pop culture - as sordid as it may be - into highly relatable columns of truth, faith and justice. Hence the name: Just Thinking. If he's not buried in a book or penning his next column, you may find him pinned to his sectional watching a good old Country and Western flick.