ColumnistsD Kevin McNeir

EDITOR’S COLUMN: For Blacks, Add ‘Jogging’ to the List of Things That Can Get You Killed

It was just another killing of a Black man — unnoticed and ignored except for one man’s family and friends left behind to mourn his death. That is, until law enforcement recently relented to public clamor and arrested the alleged assailants, albeit nearly three months after the shooting.

Tragically, nonetheless, the African-American community has now added Ahmaud Arbery’s name to an ever-growing list of Blacks murdered on the streets of America simply because of the color of their skin. Like Emmett Till, Jordan Davis and thousands of others, white privilege has reared its ugly head in justification of another heinous act of violence with Black men and boys trapped in the bullseye of hatred, fear and prejudice.

Three days before the eight-year anniversary of the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, another young person of color was stalked and killed — an innocent man whose sole crime was that he too was shackled with the presumption of guilt. Far too many people in America find themselves feared, distrusted and marked because of their race, religion, nationality — even their poverty.

It becomes the reason why Black men are greeted with hateful stares or glances when we enter a store, move through an airport, or enter a neighborhood that is not our own. For generations, Blacks have been in the life-threatening position of being assumed guilty until proven innocent.

I can only imagine the thoughts running through Brother Ahmaud’s mind — out for a routine jog near his Georgia home on a Sunday afternoon — suddenly being chased by a white father, Gregory McMichael, 64, a former police officer and retired investigator for the Brunswick district attorney’s office, and his son, Travis, 34, for what would be the final four minutes of his life.

Like the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon, Ahmaud was shot and killed, after a struggle over a gun wielded by Travis on the assumption that Ahmaud appeared suspicious. Since their arrest, the two have claimed “self-defense” in their failed attempt to make a citizen’s arrest, asserting their belief that Arbery looked like a suspect in a series of robberies.

And so, another Black man bites the dust. But if the past is any proof of the outcome, chances are the two will get little more than a slap on the wrist. After all, Black men are disposable commodities in the U.S., once property owned by whites and now little more than a hindrance, an obstacle — a beast that must be contained, corralled and controlled.

For Black men, the paradox we face is that while the most economically productive years of our lives, as well as the most opportune time to begin and build a family, is the first 20 years after completing formal education (ages 16 to 36), it’s also the period when Black men are most likely to be killed. Overwhelmed by a lack of purpose and unable to secure the means to become financially self-sufficient, many young Black men implode, then explode — often using a firearm to kill another Black man who’s equally lost in a maze of hopelessness.

Black males 15 to 34, based on data compiled by the National Center of Health Statistics, have a 1-in-21 lifetime chance of being killed — nine times higher than the odds for white men. And while those of the privileged color and class may contend that Blacks are inherently more prone to violence, thus explaining why homicide is the number one cause of death for the above-cited demographic, the unjust use of force wielded by whites against Blacks in the name of their alleged “privilege” cannot be overstated or ignored.

In the opening reflections of Dr. Haki Madhubuti’s seminal text, “Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?,” he writes: “The pain is in the eyes. Young Black men in their late 20s or early 30s living in urban America, lost and abandoned, aimlessly walking and hawking the streets with nothing behind their eyes but anger, confusion, disappointment and pain. These men, running the streets, occupying corners, often are beaten beyond recognition, with scars both visible and internal. These men, Black men — sons of Africa, once strong and full of hope that America lied about — are now knee-less, voice-broken, homeless, forgotten and terrorized into becoming beggars, thieves or ultra-dependents on a system that considers them less than human and treats them with less dignity and respect than dead dogs.”

Black men, women and children, victims of the philosophy of white supremacy and domination, live each day in a world where their mental well-being remains under assault. Thus, Blacks, regardless of their age, education, economic status or gender, must somehow survive the potential of deadly violence both within their own community and at the hands of whites.

Given the dismal life expectancy for Black men, perhaps Ahmaud was “fortunate” — at least he got the chance to make it to the age of 25. No! That’s absurd but for some Americans not totally far-fetched.

For centuries, Black men have been relegated to the category of “America’s endangered species.”

Even after Brown v. Board of Education, hard-fought battles secured during the Civil Rights Movement, affirmative action, sacrifices made by Malcolm, Martin and Medgar — even Barack Obama’s unprecedented White House victory, just breathing, walking, talking, or jogging while Black are all that’s necessary to get a brother (or sister) killed.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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