By Terrance Whittle
Tuscaloosa, AL – Too many times we have seen the deadening brutality of injustice inflicted on people of color especially men of African descent. Today, I speak specifically for and about the voices of black men and boys who for generations and historically have been physically, mentally, and emotionally castrated in this country.
What we all witnessed regarding the vigilante death of George Floyd and what we have been subject to seeing far too often over the years pertaining to black men and boys is in direct alignment with the destruction of the black male image.
Not only are the images that black boys are being attacked, but the real time physical men are being hunted in the streets like prey, thus minimizing the reality of the closeness of what black boys can touch.
As a father who has raised a black male and continues to guide him, this has been and continues to be a concerning paradigm for me and many men like me.
The outcry of both peaceful protest and rioting from our young people is real. The emotion that we see from the unrest is real. The rioting that we witness is a byproduct of the voices of those who for far too long have not been heard.
Such as the voice of Mr. Floyd—when he spoke of “I can’t breathe” when the hunter/officer had his knee on Mr. Floyds’ neck. Mr. Floyds voice was loud but not heard and that is symptomatic of the problem in American communities.
America in all its’ gallantry as a community of people does not listen to those that need to be “HEARD” the most. Are we only united under the national anthem at sporting events, or while we honor our military service men and women?
If so, this country still has a long road to trod and a huge debt to pay to men/black men in particular who have been for far too long been marginalized and kicked aside just because of the look of us.
I believe that what we are seeing now in reference to the unrest in our streets around this country should be a warning to America with respect to what America was during the riots of the sixties. (People are tired).
The denial of basic human dignity has spawned massive chaos by citizens who are not being heard. Make no mistake about it, I understand the hurt and anger. I too am hurt and angry by what I have seen from young people on television and in local communities.
But I am also concerned about the future of my son and daughters and their future children and the countless of other young black men whom I have coached and currently have under my charge that I love and mentor and their future children.
I deeply understand this anger, but I also know that this can be misguided and counterproductive. Sometimes moral men & women struggle to align themselves with things that they know are unjust.
Even though, we are fighting for good, we often times engage in challenging and unrestful events that leave us and our communities wounded, empty and bankrupt emotionally, mentally, physically, psychologically and economically. However, we have got to do better as a people… the power structure and culture of America has got to be better.
There are so many layers to what has culminated in the tragic loss of life to black men throughout this county. Much of the rising up of voices in the streets among our young people are byproducts of wanting more.
We want to see more done for social inequality, healthcare disparity, racial inequality, educational inequality particularly among and in poor and impoverished school districts in this country which often times are in black and latino communities, prison reform sentencing (especially for black men).
Equal access and opportunity for economic stability is what I believe are a part of the solution to rid this country of a downward discord of economic separatism where the poor continue to stay poor and have no shot at upward mobility and the rich continue to stay rich and get more rich at the expense of the poor.
The scales of injustice will continue to remain imbalanced.
Morality doesn’t just lay at the doorstep of niceties and what social programs are fixed. Moral fortitude is having the courage to talk about, address and act on the discords of our ills and injustices for people in your communities who have been marginalized for far too long and to help bring to them their rubicon of an economic foundation.
This marginalization also extends in an area that I know all too well. In conversations with coaches across the sport spectrum black men become lock out and abandoned once the cheering stops. Inequalities extend to coaches after playing careers are done via the lack of access to board room and front office opportunities.
Lending the thought that good enough is still not always good enough. All citizens especially (black and brown men) have historically been cast into an abysmal generational cycle of poverty many times not by choice but by a system where there is no hope for life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness even when they need a second chance, of which this is a country of.
I am honored and proud to be associated with the many law enforcement officials that I know. As many of you are aware, the vast majority of police officers in the country are providing exemplary service to the citizens for which they serve.
As an Educator, Coach and as someone who has friends, mentors, and associates in law enforcement, I personally have witnessed the service they provide and the manner in which they provide it. The greatest contribution that one human being can make to another human being other than to love them is to be in service to him or her.
That level of stewardship is a prime example of “We the people.” Which is the precipice for the promise of what America said she would do in the words of the Preamble.
The Pan Africanist Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), said that “without a unity of thought there can be no unity of action” I believe that the best means to exercise this ideal is to take discovery of what it means to be a “United States of America”.
Somewhere along the way people got robbed of the PROMISE of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For so many families, black men have experienced systematic and generational theft of the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You might ask well, “What have they been robbed of?” You know, growing up for many black kids on Saturday morning, school house rock was how we first learned about the constitution. The preamble was high on the list.
In the preamble there are three words to Insure Domestic Tranquility. For the many black men like George Floyd, they have been robbed of what America has promised them which is the assurance of domestic tranquility.
So I think about my son and all the other young black men & boys that are making their way in this society and giving them a blueprint as to how they navigate the waters successfully. I also think about my father and his brothers and the America that they grew up in which was not so long ago.
So it reminded me of how young this country is and how much this country still has to learn as it pertains to race in America. We are not there yet. Yes, we live in a great country where opportunity is abundant, but there is a clear line between greatness and morality. We just can’t be the greatest superpower militarily.
We can’t just be one of the greatest economically where people want to come for a better life and opportunities. We can’t just boast the greatest athletes in the world in Olympics & sports.
I believe that our country can marry its moral values to meet the needs of the personhood of each citizen through doing the right work for each other.
Sure we live in a society where anything is possible, but that ANYTHING/POSSIBILITY should be doable without having to live under the sting of wondering what kind of society we have that undervalues some of its life citizenry.
The scriptures tell us that “For what you do unto the least of these you also do unto me.” Our society has to embody this kind of living for the Love of human existence. The right to exist as a man on this day, at this time, in this society, was God given on the day of birth to all men.
I believe that only free men and women who have a love for God can change the discord of what is happening in our country. But please be clear, black men cannot continue to be treated as if it is hunting season on the urban streets of America by white middle-class hunters disguised as police officers.
The jig is up.