I tell the story often because it had a profound effect on my life and left me with a quote that I think about daily, but bears repeating.
I went to an all black Catholic elementary school in the City of Saint Louis. When it was time to graduate some friends of mine got together and decided we would go to the predominantly white Catholic High School in a suburb of Saint Louis.
Our reasons were selfish…we knew we could start and star as freshman athletes on the football and basketball teams. We were 14-year-old kids that really didn’t think through what we were about to experience. Many of us had never been outside of the city, had very few interactions with white people, and had never truly experienced racism.
Within the first month of our freshman year things were going fine. After school one day we were playing around with the girls like most kids do. There was this one girl who liked me, and we were playing around and she tackled me playfully and the following exchange took place while we were on the ground.
Girl: I am going to kiss you.
Me: Please don’t.
Girl: I am going to kiss you on your dick
Me: Oh so you going to suck my dick?
Me: Stop playing
In earshot there were a couple of upperclassmen who heard the conversation and didn’t like these “niggers” saying these words and messing with their girls, so they told the principal that I was trying to rape the girl.
The girl and I were taken into the office, where the girl vehemently denied I was trying to do anything to her. She told the principal were just playing around and I absolutely in no way, shape, form, or fashion was trying to assault her. She was a nice girl and she was my friend, so I wasn’t surprised she came to my defense (more on her later). Figuring I was cleared I went about my business until a week later I was called back into the Principal’s office. This time though, there were police officers there, along with the girl’s father.
The younger version of me isn’t that much different than the older version of me. I am pretty good at processing information and I knew this wasn’t good, but I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew my friend, the girl who liked me, would once again back me up. The police officer asked her what happened and to my shock she said this.
“He pinned me on the ground, told me I was going to suck his dick, and then the other boys came over to stop it.”
I was 14 years old, never been in trouble in my life, and three police officers aren’t asking my side of the story, just telling her it is going to be OK. I stayed quiet, then one of the officers looks at me and says.
“Black boys don’t mess with white girls around here, son. You don’t want any trouble or anything to happen to you, do you?”
I am not sure if they were there to scare me, send me a message, threatening me or all of the above, but my trouble ended up being a suspension and my mom had to fight to stop me from getting expelled. I was really upset…I was a good student, I didn’t do anything wrong, but no one cared about the facts, and no one wanted to hear my side of the story. Why was this happening to me? Why was a police officer speaking to me like that? Why was she being protected?
I was having trouble coming to grips with all this, when my uncle, who knew I had a love of sports, explained it to me in words I could understand.
“You have to always remember, you are a black man. When you walk out the door you are already down 14-0.”
You are already down 14-0……
You are already down 14-0……
You are ALREADY DOWN 14-0…..
Before I said anything about the murder of Mike Brown I wanted to wait and process what was going on, same way I did when I was 14, but this time I know the answers to the questions, and they aren’t pretty.
It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, yellow or whatever, certain questions have obvious answers.
1- Why were they hassling two young men who weren’t bothering anyone?
No one has ever been able to confirm that Mike Brown or his friend were doing anything illegal besides just walking. You should be allowed to WALK, without worrying about the police harassing you. Is walking in the street illegal? Probably in some archaic law book, would two white kids in an affluent area be harassed by the police for it? You know the answer.
2- Regardless of the reason for the scuffle, what officer is trained to shoot someone they know is unarmed?
If you believe the police, Brown tried to grab the officer’s weapon. Assuming that is true (it has been refuted) he didn’t succeed, he didn’t have a weapon, he was running away, not towards, the officer…there is ZERO reason to shoot. The use of deadly force is a last resort when the officer is in danger. This isn’t Grand Theft Auto video game. How is someone running away from you without a weapon a dangerous situation for the officer? You know the answer.
3- After shooting Brown twice to the point he was stopped running 35 feet away, why did the officer shoot again while his hands were in the air begging for his life?
Let’s assume that everything the cops have said up to this point is true, and Brown stole something and was the aggressor in the scuffle. After shooting him twice, not fatally, can anyone name one reason why he needed to be shot again in the head? Sometimes you do things on instinct and other things are premeditated. When you see someone with their hands up, basically giving up and you shoot them in their head, how is that not an execution? You know the answer.
4- If multiple eyewitnesses said a black man shot and executed a white man in broad daylight, would he be protected like the Ferguson officer?
This is the most extraordinary part to me. To arrest someone you have to have probable cause, and the No.1 way to have probable cause is when you have someone SEE WHAT HAPPENED. The police days later haven’t interview multiple witnesses who stories all match up that Mike Brown was executed. Instead of arresting the officer, he is on a PAID VACATION and being protected because he is being threatened on social media. You know why he is being threatened? It is because people think a cold blooded killer is being protected by the police. It is because the focus isn’t on a cop who executed a kid in broad daylight, but the kid’s “gangster music” or “gangster selfies”. It is instead of thinking maybe, just maybe, you have a rogue cop who is an animal on your force, you decide it is the community who are animals and decided to bring out military tanks on residential streets, you shoot rubber bullets at innocent people, you let loose attack dogs on children. Mike Brown’s dead body laid on the street for hours in an impoverished community where 95% of the stops, arrests and searches are done to black people, where people literally have nothing to lose, and you are wondering why they aren’t acting “peaceful?”
I wish we didn’t riot and loot in our own community, but when you beat someone down long enough, eventually they are going to break and bite back. You are dealing with a level of hopelessness that most people can’t understand. It is easy to sit from your high horse and say why are they doing this, but you didn’t see a dead body and execution on your street.
I am not big on excuses. You can’t blame everything bad that happens to you in your life on being black. Being black isn’t a free pass for bad behavior and you have to take responsibility for your own actions. The part of my uncle’s comment I don’t talk about as much is the second part where he told me it is a deficit we are dealing with, but not one you can’t overcome. But, there is a big difference from being down 14-0 and being down 56-0 and the refs are conspiring against you. It is bad enough we are always fighting from behind, but it isn’t comfortable living life with a target not just on your back, but between your eyes.
You know how people apologize not because they are sorry, but because they got caught? What is happening in Ferguson isn’t the first time it has happened, it is just the first time they have been caught, and now their dirty little secret is out in the open.
You don’t understand how it feels to live in fear of the people who are suppose to protect you. That fear doesn’t just go away…it’s always there, sometimes suppressed, but never fully gone. I found myself with heightened awareness when I was walking my dog last night, my brain in survival mode, because I don’t want some cop thinking I am breaking into a house. Let me tell you something that sucks…no one should feel that way. My 10-year-old daughter 1st day of school was yesterday and it sickens me that for the last few days, all I been praying about is that when she gets older, she isn’t at the wrong place at the wrong time when the next Mike Brown situation happens. This isn’t a random incident, this has been happening for 100s of years. Every cop isn’t bad, every white person isn’t racist, but when things happen like what happened to Mike Brown, it is difficult to stay rational.
I am product of neighborhoods like Ferguson, Missouri. I grew up in parts of cities a lot people don’t get out of. My grandmother kept a gun by her nightstand. Even though my body maybe gone, your brain never forgets. Your mind never forgets being falsely accused of rape just because you are black and white guys don’t like you. Your mind doesn’t forget having guns pulled on you for a traffic violation. Your mind doesn’t forget being followed in stores. Your mind doesn’t forget being followed by the police and being asked if the car is stolen because it is too nice for you. Your mind doesn’t forget being called a nigger. Your mind doesn’t forget having your intelligence insulted. Your mind doesn’t forget Trayvon Martin, and all the other senseless deaths of black men that could have been avoided.
My mind will never forget Mike Brown in that street.
I ran into the girl who falsely accused me of rape many years later. The entire rest of the time we were in high school she never looked me in the eye. When I saw her she apologized and said she wish she could have protected me.
Funny, because that is what I am thinking right now…..
Who is going to protect us?