An 8-year-old African-American child was sent home from school because he knelt for the pledge. A 10-year-old in a Maryland school was referred to a mental health service provider because of his artwork. He drew a picture of a person being lynched, with two klansmen standing by saying “kill him” and underneath his picture he wrote, “Black Lives Matter”
The referral was made because his teacher thought the child was suicidal. He was not. But the truth is just about as sad as it would have been if the picture had been about suicidal thoughts. These children know what is going on in America today. A community cannot have one of their members being shot in the street about every twenty-eight hours by the folks who are charged to protect them and not find itself terrorized.
The continued killing of unarmed African-Americans has to stop. While I understand that others are being victimized in this manner as well, this widespread modern day lynching practice is too prevalent in the African-American community. Perhaps readers will not be clear why I characterized these killings, which have the modern name of being “extrajudicial,” as lynchings. It is because they are happening outside of the law though policemen are doing them. People are being killed without being charged with anything and without any due process of the law. Unarmed African-American males in particular are being shot while their hands are in the air because they know the danger of being involved with some police officers.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled last week that when African-Americans try to flee the police that it is not to be deemed necessarily as suspicious but an effort to get to safety.
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Last week in California three African-American males were killed. Two of them had serious mental issues and no weapons. The third one was running with his hands up and was shot in the back. The week before Terrence Crutcher was shot while attending to his stalled car and his hands were in the air as well. There have been more than 200 killings of African-Americans, mostly males, by the police this year. No wonder the children are crying.
Unfortunately, the little boy in Maryland did not have an enlightened teacher who was able to seize the moment as a teachable one and allow her class to engage this subject that is obviously necessary as this child had indicated so vividly. Of course the first response was to assume that this little boy is going to hurt himself. He was not thinking about hurting himself; he was thinking about being hurt by the police. What a pity that a child has to be concerned about such matters. And what a greater pity that his teacher seems to have so little awareness about what is going on.
We have a consciousness-raising movement going on at the moment, it is called Black Lives Matter. The Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, which I chair, is being intentional in trying to learn how we, as people of faith, can support the young people who are waging this movement. Along with giving our support we want to become much more involved in helping to create the space where genuine and sustainable change can occur.
While there are many very competent and deeply committed officers of the law, those who seem to follow the rubric of shoot first and ask questions later have to be dealt with in some way. We cannot afford to continue to have African-Americans and other people of color shot down in the streets before questions are asked. We remember Tamir Rice and other young folks who were needlessly killed. This terrorizing has to be stopped, and all of us are responsible for seeing to it being stopped.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.