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Every time I turn on the TV, it seems that yet another African-American male has been beaten, or worse killed, by a police officer.   From Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown to the latest victim, Michael Laney, police officers (and volunteer security as it were) are using deadly force and, more importantly, getting away with it.

Afterwards, we are bombarded with negative stories of the victim’s home life! His academic prowess or the lack thereof is discussed. His fatherless home, substandard and often impoverished lifestyle and probable penchant for violence is noted by someone with letters following his/her name. Images of the victim on social media at happier times are used, or rather misused, as possible proof of gang affiliation. Any drug usage, such as marijuana (a drug now legalized in at least three states), puts the proverbial icing on the cake.

The seemingly inevitable conclusion has been reached: He was expendable. Chances are they would not have lived long enough to make any real contribution to society, nor actually done so even if they had. The odds were against them. Better to eradicate them now than to allow them to languish indefinitely in already overcrowded prisons to wit they were undoubtedly headed.   Good riddance. No one will miss them other than their immediate family and/or friends, right? Case closed!!

But the image, the thought pattern remains in the public mind: he had it coming. If he was respectable and well-mannered and clean cut, it wouldn’t have happened. And then both sides of the equation lull themselves into the thought that there is no racial problem and that something else must have been in play.

However, over the past weekend, the latest beating of Martese Johnson, a black honor student at the University of Virginia (UVA), has changed all of that. He wasn’t a thug (perceived or otherwise). He had no knowledge of gang life or hustling. In his own mind, he was one of the respectable crowd, not like those wild heathens on the news. After all, he went the right school with the right people. Even HE thought that would have made a difference. This is probably why he kept calling out to the police, knee in his back all the while, that he attended UVA. Alas, to no avail. And I am thrilled for it. You see, young, African American men like him assumed that as long as they went to the best schools with the best people (read as white or at least non black in both cases), that they were immune to racism and racial violence. It took the plight of someone like him to reveal that as a lie.

Here’s the new message to African American males: No matter who you are and what you have accomplished through academia or via good, sound business practices, it is still open season on you! There is no escaping it. You are still being targeted at an alarming rate! Tread lightly!!

Now, I know that some people are going to remind us all that he may have been committing a misdemeanor at the time of the arrest (which is a capital offense for black males), so let’s address that. Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Mr. Johnson did produce a fake ID in an attempt to gain entry into a pub. Is he the first student, black, white or other, to do so? Was he even the first one to do it that evening? Was everyone treated with such aggression? Did they all deserve that? No? Ok, then. Let’s move on to the next part: he was cited for being belligerent. I don’t know about you but something about being jumped from behind and landing on the concrete, face first, would make me feel just a tad. . . . belligerent! Call me crazy, but I just think I would be a lot happier and easier to deal with if my face was not smashed against unforgiving sidewalk. Can anybody hear me??

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With all the celebrating of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, one barely has a moment to reflect on exactly what is being celebrated. More importantly, no one has even considered the idea that a grand celebration may be contraindicated.

Fifty years ago, Jim Crow laws shaped the lives of black persons. Basic human rights were denied to them, under the guise of law and morality. Voting rights were a constant issue as well. While not outright slaughtered in the streets, black people were beaten and killed from state to state while the wheels of justice were seemingly stuck in the middle of the road. The very lives of blacks were taken as near worthless. As a result of this madness, there were constant marches and boycotts against the very visible Jim Crow. But Jim, though successful, was unpolished. He simply could not hide his evil and venom from the world at large and, as such, was an embarrassment to his Northern cousins. So, in order maintain the status quo of inequity and unfairness, he required a makeover. In essence, he had to reinvent himself.

Jim Crow gave birth to a new and more sophisticated form of himself. Instead of donning sheets and hoods, he donned business suits and carried leather briefcases. He traded in his fire hoses, rope and dogs for law, policy and money. He changed his stance and speech patterns, gained epicurean insight and began calling himself James Crow, Esq.

Unlike his uncultured cousin, James Crow, Esq., has a stellar education and is better able to twist and pervert the justice system for his dirty work. Unlike his counterpart, he uses the pen as his weapon instead of the noose. In this way, he is able to distance himself from the old, obvious racism and pretend that his own sins, though as numerous and cruel as his counterpart’s, are somehow right and fair-seeming. The outcome is the same for those targeted by Jim or James, but James’ hands APPEAR to be clean…and in today’s society, appearance is everything.

But we celebrate. We celebrate the death of Jim Crow while ignoring the continued survival of James. We tell ourselves or, better yet, are told that race is no longer an issue and that those who think otherwise are troublemakers and race baiters. But, lo and behold, just as in the days of Jim Crow, voting rights are still an issue. Decades later, the new face of an unjustified and unpunished murder is Trayvon Martin instead of Emmett Till. In 2013, African Americans are still given harsher penalties than their white counterparts for the same crimes.

So…what was the celebration for?

As strange as it may seem, we appear to be celebrating the strides African Americans have made in their quest for equality in the same vein as someone who was suffering under eight tumors and now has only six. Obviously, you don’t want to dismiss the unmistakable healing that has taken place but, make no mistake, he is not whole. He continues to need major assistance and adjustments. For all his strides, the cancer is still there.

Now, let’s imagine that it took 50 years for the two tumors to vanish. Would you feel the same about his achievements or would you have expected him to have been restored to wholeness and able to stand on his own two feet?

Can anybody hear me?

It seems that every once in a while, something has to happen to remind people that race relations between blacks and whites have not changed much since the days of slavery. As with any point regarding human nature, someone has had to die in order to get it across. The latest, publicized victim is Trayvon Martin. For those living on a different planet, Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old kid who, while visiting his father in Florida, was gunned down by a volunteer Neighborhood Watch warden named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was later acquitted of any wrongdoing.

In fact, some people are saying that young Trayvon contributed to his death as much as Zimmerman. After all, what right did he have to strike another human being? Here’s the thing they fail to consider. For all the talk of whether Martin was a street thug or a scholar, we seem to forget that he was, above all else, a child. He was a young, dumb kid who responded in an immature way to a perceived threat. In his young mind, he was defending himself against a lurking presence that wished to do him harm. He was defending himself as much as Zimmerman claimed to be.

No matter what side of the verdict you find yourself falling on, I think we can all agree on one thing: the entire incident could have been avoided. Zimmerman could have had some identifying factors such as an ID or official uniform that would have revealed his identity to Martin. Consider those worn by the Guardian Angels. They are immediately recognizable as individuals working for the common good. Uniforms and badges give validity and purpose to the people wearing them. They let others know that these are people who, while in positions of some authority, are able to be depended upon.

If this is too over the top, Zimmerman always had a trump card. He could have taken the advice of the dispatch and not have followed Martin in the first place. He could have stayed in his car and “watched” to see what Martin was doing and/or where he was going. After all, Zimmerman was the neighborhood “watch,” not neighborhood “security.”

However, he chose not to do that. Instead, he chose to put his faith in his OTHER trump card—the gun that he was carrying. As a result of his decision, a young man is dead . . . forever!

I guess as a consolation, one of the jurors is now saying that Zimmerman got away with murder.

Okay, tell us something we don’t already know.

She goes on to say that Zimmerman will not escape God’s judgment. Seriously?? Isn’t that the same for any situation or crime? Who can escape God’s judgment? No one. The people were not asking for God’s judgment. The people were asking for man’s judgment. In particular, they were asking six women to judge Zimmerman right here on earth! Now is simply not the time for platitudes and hokey religious sayings. Frankly, I’m not trying to hear them. That kind of thinking is what got us into this mess as a people and will continue to get us in situations such as this. Yes, God is in control of this universe. But constantly eschewing the responsibility of working for justice in this world just ensures that there is never any real accountability for crimes of this nature. Can anybody hear me?