I wake this morning with a memory that still haunts my heart. It was 30 years ago when my young brother was jogging in Wilmington, NC. My uncle had allowed him to jog the short distance home after a drive to a nearby store. My uncle was not far behind. On the side of the road a few feet away, the police had my 11 year old brother pulled aside questioning him about a reported bicycle theft. My uncle informed the officers that my brother had just left his car and there was no bicycle. Apparently someone had reported the theft and seeing a young black man in the area. I thought of this time and how it all could have gone so terribly wrong. It was already bad enough to profile a young boy merely on a jog and just because he happened to be black.
The recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery a 25 year old African American shot and killed in the simple act of jogging is once again a reminder of the peril that often awaits many people of color. We have allowed ourselves to become a nation where open season on minorities has become the order of the day. Whether the crime is driving while black, jogging while black, eating while black, praying while black, relaxing in one’s home while black, the outcome is often the same. The killings occur and the news goes to the back page.
As a child our teachers told us that the policeman was our friend. If we were ever lost or needed help, the man in blue was the one we were supposed to call. A year ago I was pulled over for alledgedly running a red light. I watched from my mirror as the officer approached the passenger side of the car. All the while my heart was racing and my mouth went dry. He was polite enough; wrote my ticket and left with “have a good day.” I realized that sometimes it does not end that way. I wondered had I been a black male how the situation might have been different.
In 2016, a public opinion survey was conducted by the Pew Research center regarding police performance and the use of force. 33 percent of African Americans felt police did a good job with the use of force compared to 75 percent of white Americans. That, in my
opinion demonstrates living in two separate worlds
I once had a friend who complained I spoke too often about race. She went on to let me know in so many words she no longer wanted to speak of it. She preferred to focus her attentions on the beauty in the world. She had no time for discourse that may have been controversial. That was her right and her priviledge. it was also my right as a woman of color to remember and to tell the stories. There is no doubt the priviledge some have builds a wall between understanding. There is no doubt the glazed look in my friend’s eyes signaled the end. There is no simple answer or fix and until we recognize humanity in each other and let our voices be heard, the world will continue its madness. I grieve for the loss of this man and all before him and the ones who will come after him.