When I was a middle school tutor a few years ago, I had a student at the school get killed. He was hit by a car in front of the school. All of his friends were witnesses. Though he was not my student, many of my students were very close to him. I saw him around campus, but did not know him personally. However, his death affected me. Day after day, students came to class raising funds for his funeral expenses. The funds raised in the school walk-a-thon went to his family, also. It was sad that my students had to lose a friend at such a young age, but I was proud to see them band together for a good cause.
As I stand only 4 months away from becoming a full-time teacher, I fear having to encounter that again. I dread the day that I take attendance and one of my students is permanently absent from life. I fear having to explain to 11 and 12-year-olds why they won’t be back in class. I am terrified of having 6th and 7th graders in grief counseling after witnessing their classmate being gunned down by a trigger-happy police officer or neighborhood watch captain who “oops… didn’t mean to reach for my gun” or “my bad, I thought he had a gun.”
As I see people in Ferguson, Missouri rioting and looting as a result of the murder of 17-year-old Mike Brown, I wish we didn’t have to resort to these things to express our outrage. However, I understand their rage. Mike Brown is not the first nor do I believe that he will be the last. How are we supposed to feel, though? This is our daily lives. Each week, it seems, another unarmed Black man is shot and killed with no repercussions for the killers.
If our men aren’t killed, they’re incarcerated. It’s utterly despicable. Have you read the comments on the news stories lately? Half of the commenters believe that we bring this upon ourselves because we “look suspicious” or have done things to justify our murder.
Kimani Gray – 16, New York
Kendrec McDade – 19, California
Timothy Russell – Cleveland
Oscar Grant – California
Ervin Jefferson – 19, Atlanta
Amadou Diallo – New York
Patrick Dorismond – 26
Ousmane Zongo – New York
Timothy Stansbury Jr. – 19, New York
Sean Bell – 23, New York
Orlando Barlow – Nevada
Victor Steen – 19, Florida
Trayvon Martin – 17, Florida
Steven Washington – 27, Washington
Alonzo Ashley – 29, Denver
Michael Brown – 17, Missouri
Eric Garner – New York
The list goes on and on. When will it stop?
My heart hurts for each and every name on this list and beyond. It’s haunting that people can get away with cold-blooded murder and judges and juries turn blind eyes to the entire situation. I fear for my future children who have to be warned to not look too suspicious, not run too fast, not to dress in baggy clothes, not to reach in their pockets too fast, not to startle anyone, not to knock on anyone’s door in the middle of the night, not to wear a hoodie over their heads at night even in the rain, not to reach for a cell phone in front of a police officer, or play their music too loudly in a gas station parking lot. Did I miss anything?