We all have a psychological process in which we subconsciously and instantly classify a person upon seeing them. However, if we are to stem the tide of young, black men from being gunned down we must change those perceptions. In order to do so we must realize that young black men come in many shapes, sizes and colors. We must realize that in an instant you can not identify a person as being a thug, a member of the mayor’s staff or a young person still trying to find his way in the world. There must also be an insight provided into authentic black culture. America has to broadly accept and understand that having such identifiers as dreads, baggy pants, or even smelling like marijuana doesn’t equate to a threshold of “clear and present danger” and, thus, a justification to kill black youth.
I am 27 years old. I like most of the vile (“ratchet”) rap music out there. Although I work in the Columbia mayor’s office and mostly wear a suit and tie every day, I sometimes work out in a hoodie and a fitted cap. I sometimes enjoy the opportunity to wear jeans and a pair of Jordans. I have never been arrested. I have never committed a crime against another person. However, when I walk down Main Street late at night I customarily watch couples clutch hands and gravitate to the farthest most area of the sidewalk in hopes to safely pass by this 5-7, 165-pound African-American man.
As a country, we have to come to a realization that the young, black man your police officer shot last night was the same child that you cheered on the college football field or basketball court the day before.
Furthermore, as a race African-Americans must do more. We must highlight more that we are more complex than what we show on television or what is portrayed on the local news. We must ensure that we consistently and vigilantly work to push the definition of young, black and male to one that more accurately shows just how varied that demographic truly is. We have to showcase not only achievement, but highlight the many different forms that it can be visualized in when dealing specifically with young, black men.
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We have to stop killing me.