Monday, February 17, 2014

Why should we have children?

The Jacksonville Sheriffs Office had four marked vehicles patrolling the gas station where
Jordan Davis was killed in the aftermath of a highly publicized case where the unarmed 17-year-old
was killed after an November 2012 argument with Satellite Beach resident Michael Dunn. (Photo by Will Brown)

By Will Brown

Every month my wife and I share a laugh and a high five when we know parenthood is once again postponed.  

We are aware raising a child, especially a black child, will be a rewarding challenge. Recent events in our native Florida have highlighted how difficult our task will be.

Whenever our child arrives he or she will enter a world where it will be perceived by some as a second-class citizen. Our daughters will be objectified. Our sons will be vilified. Meanwhile, we will be petrified at the possibilities of what may happen when they are not in our sight.

Travon Martin and Jordan Davis were perceived as threats, despite the fact neither of them weighed 160 pounds when they were killed. Genetics say it will highly improbable our child will be that slight when they are 17 years old.

If being mouthy and picking a fight can get Davis, Martin and too many others murdered, one can see why we would be concerned to bring a child into this world that will be tall, dark and opinionated.

That cold truth was splashed across our faces at a family dinner Saturday night when six of us went to a restaurant in a Jacksonville suburb.

Behind us was a family of five. To our left was a family of four. The first family had a husband, wife, two young sons and a daughter. The second featured a husband, wife and two young sons. All four boys appeared to be under 10 years old.

As we discussed Michael Dunn’s conviction on attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle — but not of killing Davis — we realized the two boys at the table behind us will be perceived far differently than the two boys at the second table five years from now in part because they are black.

The perception of young black men was all the more apparent Sunday afternoon when I visited the gas station at the corner of Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road.

As I walked inside a uniformed officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office stood 50 feet away profiling me. The dread, anger and impulsivity that washed over me during the 15 seconds the officer was assessing whether I was a threat were all too familiar.

I have endured similar looks from law enforcement, store owners, potential employers and others during my lifetime to know when I’m being profiled. Having been previously profiled, I knew it was prudent to take off my sunglasses, tilt my hat higher so more of my face could be seen and wait patiently with my arms in plain sight Sunday afternoon while I waited on a friend to return from the bathroom.

Two other young black men walked into the gas station while I was inside. Both were sized up by officers as well in the time they walked from their cars.

Four police cruisers and at least that many uniformed officers were at that gas station Sunday because that was where Davis was killed. 

It’s not as though the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office did not have anything to do.

Since Saturday’s verdict eight people — yes, eight — have been shot in two separate nightclub incidents in Jacksonville. The identities of the victims, or the suspects, have not been released. Regardless, it’s a tragedy.

What is also sad is the realization that no matter how smart, gregarious and courteous our child may be there is a significantly higher chance he or she will be the victim of homicide than any other racial or ethnic subset in America.

The FBI reported there were 12,765 homicides in this country in 2012 with 6,454 or 50.5 percent, of those deaths being blacks.

If such statistics do not sound intimidating that is because it was not your son, daughter, mother, father, spouse or friend who was eulogized.

The FBI statistics indicate that strangers are much less likely to commit homicide than one’s family, friends and acquaintances. However, when strangers, like Dunn and George Zimmerman are allowed to accost, shoot and not face consequences for their quick triggers and tempers it is a reminder of why some still subscribe to Richard Pryor’s observation about American prisons: “you go down there looking for justice, that's what you find: just us.”

When Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, publically admitted last summer that he spoke with his teenage son about how to act when interacting with the police and strangers, it was enough of a jolt to make me question whether it is worth it to have children.

At the time Holder stated this is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways. So long as that is a reality, I am just as fearful for my child as America is of my child.

Laughs and liveliness,