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On November 25, 2014, I wrote to you about my concerns for our black young men being gunned down by the police. Today, July 7, 2016, I find myself totally overwhelmed emotionally because of what happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this week. Within 24 hours, these two young men were tragically shot and killed by police. Video footage shows Alton Sterling being shot at close range while physically subdued by two officers in Baton Rouge, LA. On the other hand, in Minnesota, Philando Castile was shot during a traffic stop, with his girlfriend and her young daughter in the car, by a CLEARLY agitated and unreasonable officer. Within 24 hours of each other…the emotional barrage is too much for me to take, so I thought it best to write to you again. But I decided I am not going to even change the original letter one iota. What I felt and experienced then, I feel now. Here, years later, the tenor and spirit of what I wrote remains the same. Eerily so. I will however, add some names to the list of those who have gone before you, since my original post. Their memory deserves to be honored, because Black Lives Matter.
Remember, I love you and want you to take to heart what has spewed from mine:
My Dear Sons,
There are those who have gone before you and their blood cries out for justice: Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Dante Parker. Tanisha Anderson. Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. Rumain Brisbon. Eric Harris. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Kimani Gray. Amadou Diallo. Timothy Stansbury Jr. I could continue; the list is exhaustive. Some names you know. Some names you may not know. If you don’t know the name, I need you to take the time to research their tragic stories. What they all have in common is that they were young, black, unarmed and killed by police officers. (One was literally killed because he was black and no other reason. You’ll discover who when you do your research). I am writing to you because my heart is very heavy in this hour. I am here at work, trying to maintain some semblance of composure. All the while, my mind keeps returning to Ferguson, MO and Michael Brown. His murderer, a white police officer, walked away SCOTT-FREE last night after a grand jury determined there was no probable cause to charge him with a crime. I join a national host of frustrated and angry individuals. For all that our race has endured, fought and died for, in the name of civil rights, I truly feel as though the tide is turning against us, in a way I did not expect. We are slowly being exterminated by the very forces we elect to protect and serve us. The decision in Missouri yesterday makes me sad for you and for all young black men across this country. It is open season on the black male. Age is not a factor either. Young men like the 12-year-old Tamir Rice and 14-year-old Cameron Tillman have been gunned down by anxious trigger happy cops. They were just LITTLE BOYS whose lives had hardly begun! The police are out of control, and the courts are allowing them to get away with murder time after time.
As your father, I’ve had stellar moments of parenting and some so-so moments. Today, I feel the need to deposit something of significance into you. You are both WONDERFUL, AMAZING young men! You are upstanding, respectful, full of integrity, righteous, God-fearing, insightful, highly intelligent, responsible, full of aspiration, destiny-driven…I could go on and on about all your good qualities and exceptional characteristics. The fact of the matter is, despite all that, you have a huge target on your back because you are a black male. That is the hard, ugly truth, my sons. The world is full of generalizations and stereotypes about you. You have to be careful. You need to be sure that you surround yourself with people who are as awesome as you are. You have to avoid the very appearance of evil, as the Word instructs. You have to live life knowing that a gun is pointed at you at all times; and should “they” feel you appear to be out of line, well… I hate that this is the society we live in. I hate that as a black man, even if I am driving in my car with full insurance coverage, up to date registration, no outstanding tickets, no warrants, that I STILL tense up and look over my shoulder when I see a police car in the immediate area. It is ridiculous, but it is reality.
Here is further truth: We are Kings…children of the Most High God, created and designed for greatness. We rely on His protection and covering. We know that if He is for us that He is MORE than the world against us!! This is why I implore you to find yourself IN HIM at all times. Your best position and defense against this vicious plot against you is to stay WRAPPED UP in the Lord. He is a strong Tower, your buckler and your shield! IN HIM, no weapon formed against you will prosper. IN HIM, you have been given POWER over the enemy and nothing shall by any means harm you! Hear me: it’s IN HIM that you MUST make your residence.IN HIM, you have your best chance and your fullest covering. Yet in still, I need to re-visit some instruction:
Don’t allow yourself to be found in suspect venues.
Don’t ride in the car with people who are questionable.
Don’t frequent establishments that celebrate the Enemy.
If you come across a police officer who has questions, be as completely respectful and compliant as humanly possible. NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS. Keep your hands in plain view.
Pull your pants up.
Don’t run the streets at night.
Go home. PLEASE…come HOME!
I wish I could protect you from the evil realities of this world 24 hours a day. That is unrealistic. So when you are outside of my realm of physical protection, remember your training. Remember all you have seen and have been taught. Most importantly, “be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion – seeking whom he may devour. RESIST him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood across the land” (I Peter 5:8, 9).
I love you Nate and Josh. I’m proud of you both. This is not the society I envisioned for you. But you can combat it. Show this world what phenomenal young black men look like. Show the world that we are not expendable, but a force to be reckoned with.