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Another Generation of Second-Class Citizens (Ferguson and Lionel Ritchie on My Mind)

Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I are jaded.  Or rather, numb.  We were not surprised by the grand jury verdict in the Michael Brown killing.

We both agreed that it was senseless to loot and burn the businesses of innocent business owners in Ferguson, especially if those businesses employed those in the community and/or were black-owned.

We both agreed that if Michael Brown had reached for the officer's gun, his fate was sealed, not because he may not have been justified in reaching for it, but because, once you do, your killing by a police officer becomes justifiable.

We initially disagreed about the way forward.  Kind of.

"We have to teach our young men to be smarter," he said.

"Smarter?", I asked.

"Yes, smarter." BMNB explained that police officers act out of fear, specifically their fear of black men.  The answer, he said, was to teach all our sons that police officers' fears can cause them to be killed and that, no matter what, there are certain things you as a black man can't say or do to a police officer and expect to live to tell about it.

"Damn," I said.  "Do we have to raise yet another generation of second-class citizens?  My dad grew up seeing black men lynched because they didn't address a white man the right way or they looked at a white woman too long.  Your generation was raised not to run at night or make any sudden moves when stopped by the police.  Black people have always had to raise our sons to expect to be treated as second-class citizens.  Do we as black people have to raise yet another generation of second-class citizens?"

I hung my head.  Then I remembered a story Lionel Ritchie told in an episode of Oprah Winfrey's "Master Class."  He talked about growing up on the Tuskegee University (then Tuskegee Institute) campus and living in a racism-free bubble during segregation until he ventured off campus.  He spoke of how when he was a child he drank from a white water fountain in town, and white men then started to threaten his dad.  He just knew his dad was going to kick their behinds.  His dad only told him, "Get in the car."  Years later, he asked his dad why he hadn't stood up to those white men. His dad replied:

"Son, I had two choices that day.  I could choose to be a man or I could choose to be your father.  That day, I chose to be your father."

It made me realize that it isn't about being a second-class citizen.  It's about having our young black men survive the experience and live to tell about it.  If they don't live, they can't tell the tale of what happened to them.  Only forensics and police officers put on the stand during their own grand jury hearings (WTH?) will tell the tale.  And if young black men don't live to tell what happened to them, it can't be changed for the next generation of young black man.

"We need a protocol for all our young men to follow when they encounter the police.  A protocol that we can all agree on, that's nationally recognized.  I don't know if it's 'Hands up, don't shoot' or what, but we need a protocol that we all train our young black men to follow when they encounter the police. We need to teach that protocol in the churches and the schools."

"Then we need to train the police on that protocol," said BMNB.  And then he said something that made me even more jaded:

"You know that every day there are black men who do all the right things when they encounter the police and still get killed, right?"

"Yes, I know."  But we have to start somewhere.

#FeelingPowerless
#BlackLivesMatter

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