I was riding my bike near the Atlantic seashore when I began to consider the fears and challenges so many have faced during 2020.
Twenty-four hours before my bike ride, I appeared on a Facebook live video with an innovative pair of co-hosts who had created the weekly “Hey Girl” show. The show featured issues that discussed current events, conscious living, and connection to womanhood.
On September 26, 2020, the Hey Girl show was airing less than eight days after a Louisville, Kentucky grand jury refused to indict police officers for the murder of a young black woman violently awakened to the chaos and blaring of bullets shredding her body and organs.
Breanna Taylor had committed no crime, nor was the suspect of criminal activity. Ms. Taylor’s only offense was sleeping, at night, in her home.
Taylor’s murder occurred on the eve of a continuous thread of prosecutorial coverups and police killings of other black men, women, and children. Ahmaud Aubrey killed while jogging. George Floyd, killed while complying with police orders.
The unescapable near biblical truth is that regardless of what a Black person does, there is no way for Black bodies to be safe. No aspect of living is safe from what appears to be state-sanctioned murder.
Sleeping - not safe.
Walking on the street - not safe.
Driving in a car - not safe.
Jogging near your home - not safe.
Great grandparents, grandparents, and parents have forever warned, be good, be polite, to keep their black children safe.
During the Facebook Live, the host asked that I explain why Ms. Taylor was killed, why the police officers who committed the killing were not charged, and how African Americans can wrap their minds around another painful death.
To be clear, the African American community has ridden the wave of murders by state and civilian actors for generations.
African Americans have watched as prosecutors, courts, and juries have arrived at legal conclusions that defy justice to preserve the pillars of white supremacy. African Americans have been battered and drowned by the sorrow of black children who still play with toys but can be murdered, kicked, and harassed by police who failed to connect and see the humanity in their eyes.
The incarceration of black women has steadily increased. The Prison Policy Initiative reports that in 2017, African American women make up 43% of the jail population, with 23% of those locked behind bars based on claims of defending themselves against violence.
Black children have been devalued and recast in a storyline where their starring role is one of juvenile delinquents, vagrants, tough, or only valued as athletic hopefuls. There is no narrative in white culture that spotlights the textured and complex lives of black children. White supremacy has no imagination, wisdom, or curiosity. White supremacy fails to see that Black men, women, and children solve mysteries, create art, build, sculpt and love.
The answer to the questions posed by the Facebook Live hosts is embedded in history.
History informs us that the system is not broken. The system is a perfectly designed machine whose sole purpose is to devalue, catch and psychologically traumatize and physically brutalize Black bodies in the name of the law. The system is humming along flawlessly and can pump over $182 billion to local economies today. Similar to the economy of the 1700s, 1800s, and early 1900s build shamelessly on free African laborers, so does the current criminal justice machine operate to the detriment of black persons.
History is also clear on how we arrived at the modern police state that fails to train, emboldens violence in law enforcement, and justifies the killing of black persons after the end of slavery barring them from gainful employment, local white militia armed themselves and set about arresting newly freed slaves and forcing them unpaid.
Vagrancy laws and Black Codes were quickly implemented to justify the arrest of black men, women, and children barred from gainful employment. Through Jim Crow legislation, states codified rules barring black persons from access to education, housing, and jobs. These and other segregation laws further crushed the psychological and physical health of African Americans.
During the Q &A of the Facebook live call, the question was asked: "How can Black families recover, thrive, or move in a world where no action is considered safe? Even further one mother, expressed terror that her son was a new driver and would now face the possibility of encountering police officers in a car.
That mother listened to my general response that we have rights that should be asserted during any police encounter.
One such right was that Constitutional assurance that a person does not have to answer police questions and should ask for an attorney. Skeptical, the mother retorted, "Well, what if the police get agitated that your son did not answer questions and asserted his constitutional rights?"
I immediately empathized with that mother, as my son will soon drive and has a younger brother that will one day claim his privilege to explore the world on roads and highways.
My response to that mother expressing fear that her son would have a negative police encounter was a two-part answer:
● First, there are police officers that are even-tempered and want nothing more than to arrive home safely each night.
● Second, when an African American motorist is confronted with an aggressive law enforcement officer – the most important thing to remember is not to take actions for the sole purpose of appeasing abusive authority figures.
Strive to remain calm and avoid engaging in meaningless verbal disputes. Do not consent to a search of a person or property and don't offer to make a statement of any kind. When we make statements to the police or attempt to reason with abusive authority figures, we give up constitutional rights that do not please these bad actors.
The undeniable truth is that any authority figure that is angered by a person calmly and respectfully refusing to answer questions or asking for an attorney was never angry with the motorist as a person.
Instead, an aggressive law enforcement officer has an issue with the African American motorist that deviates from the script of white supremacy which states that black persons as inferior and without rights.
Download your copy of my Police Encounters Guide, the digital flashcards summarize your rights that you can take with you on the road. Read through it for yourself and with your child. Combat this evil with knowledge.