I sit here with tears in my eyes as I witness the loss of Emmett Till yet again. Time after time he’s been resurrected and again taken away from us but the question remains; will we finally repent for our neglect and see to it that his life was not lost in vain? If you don’t know the story, you can brush up on it here: (http://wp.me/p2vzdP-iM).
A 17 year old magnet student’s dreams of life quickly turned into the ultimate nightmare, death itself. I listen to the words of a broken mother who can’t help but cry with confusion as she wrestles with the fact that “music” is the justification for her child being ripped away from her. Loud… music… was the cause of death and suddenly the streets in my community got a little quieter. As I write these words, somewhere there is a little 17-year-old Black boy filling his tank, ready to time travel in this thing called life. The chances of his untimely demise just improved ten-fold and he’s more likely to be the next victim of a fear-crime, a neglect-crime, a statistic-crime, a you-are-Black-so-more-likely-to-call-your-threatening-friends-to-cause-harm-against-me-crime. Nope, this was no hate crime because hate-crimes are of a different time; they are representative of that old-racism that was in your face, overt, and exposed. No, we don’t have Eugene “Bull” Conner these days; we have George Zimmerman’s and Michael Dunn’s. But what is the difference?
Eugene “Bull” Conner was Police Commissioner in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. He was a pioneer in the field of Police Brutality and was responsible for the loss of countless Negro lives; that’s what we were known as back then, Negroes. Negroes were something to hate and they were the victims of countless hate-crimes. One such victim was Emmett Till. His demise is the close ancestor of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin’s; however from the days when we were Negroes. Bull Conner hated them and therefore committed crimes against them. Skip to today and meet me, the descendant of those Negroes of old, and known now as an African-American. We African-Americans are not hated, but oh are we feared. We have the ability to call in gangs of friends for an attack quicker than Mitt Romney can call in one binder of women. We have the potential to have weapons on us at all times… just like Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman did. And the statistics say that if you meet one of us in a gas station, the chances are slim to none that we will be magnet students without firearms in possession. This, however, was one of those rare cases that even more rarely happened 9 months ago merely 2 hours and 11 minutes by car away where Trayvon Martin was gunned down. Statistics are crazy huh?
No, we must NOT view this as a hate crime, as Davis’ mother notes and asks in a recent interview. To do so would tarnish the young man’s memory and inhibit the impact that it could have on our communities. Return to Emmet Till and I remind you of the silence heard and the emotion felt in every Black community in the nation. His death was a rude awakening that not even our youth are safe from the evils of our society. It united us and his memory encouraged our communities to look out for one another because if we don’t have each other’s backs, somebody will run up and take the front. Just look at how 57 years later here I am still making influential use of Till’s memory. This is what we must do for the families and memories of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. These were fear-crimes; fear being a primary defensive strategy in the stories of both Zimmerman and Dunn. Fear is the result of institutionalized racism, just as hate was the result of Jim Crow Racism. Here’s how: institutionalized racism surfaces in mass incarceration and deprived educational systems. Therefore due to the fact that so many of us are behind bars and deprived a fair education, the reasoning is that there’s a higher percentage chance that one of us African-Americans are next in line. Michael Dunn had to make sure he wasn’t going to be the one to do it, so he fired first… out of fear. To go even further, in fear of us “wolves” as Dunn’s lawyer’s statement reads, he then flees the scene to return to the comfort of his own community, his home. Davis didn’t have that luxury.
So my question to the world is whether there is that big of a difference between the deaths of Till, Davis, and Martin? Does the logic and justification rendered by Conner in 1961 differ that much from Dunn and Zimmerman’s of 2012? Sure, you buy the 10th edition of that Chemistry book in 2012, but has the content changed that much since the 1980 5th edition? No, this new one just has added problems, a new face, and new language. So we Negroes… oops, I mean African-Americans need to open our three eyes, because the first two clearly aren’t sufficient. (Definition of Third Eye: http://goo.gl/m7tyy)
I am tired of seeing our future taken away from us one by one. They could have been doctors, poets, community leaders, and the savers of numerous lives, but they weren’t allowed to even live their own past 17. No more burials! The time has come for unity and learning from our past and treacherous present. We must begin looking out for one another, loving ourselves and our community, and fixing the problems in this country that it hasn’t been able to fix since our arrival here. Fear begets fear and what would happen now if a young Black boy then arms himself in fear of what someone else’s fear will bring them to do? What would his end result be? No more looking outside to fix the problem because as we’ve seen, blackface was only one of Jim Crow’s disguises. He has many others and we are seeing more and more of them with time. Let’s not preoccupy ourselves with keeping track of him from the window, waiting for the Prince to slay our dragon. Instead we must turn to the mirror and strengthen this beautiful Black armor so that we can stare that dragon in the face and say we are fire-proof, we are bullet-proof, and we will prove how American we can be. We have 9 months to figure it out.
I leave you with this clip from David Dennis’ speech at the funeral of James Cheney, 21 year-old Civil Rights worker from Mississippi murdered in 1964. Watch 1:00-1:28
“I know that they’re gonna say not-guilty, because no one saw them pull the trigger. I’m tired of that. Don’t bow down anymore. Hold your heads up!… We want our freedom now. I don’t want to have to go to another memorial. I’m tired of funerals… I’m tired of it!… we’ve got to stand up!”
#Justice4JordanDavis #Justice4TrayvonMartin #Justice4EmmettTill
What: Lost Youth Candlelight Vigil
Where: The Leimert Park Fountain
When: February 16, 2013 at 5:00pm
Event Link: http://wp.me/p2vzdP-n1