If the recent killings of Black males by law enforcement seem familiar, unfortunately, it is becoming just that! Although the situations, circumstances, and geographical location may change, the race and gender of the victims and the gut-wrenching pain remains the same. One can only wonder if the American public has become numb or accepting of the killing of Black males by law enforcement or other Black males. Either way, it is a painful truth that must be addressed on both accounts if America is to hold itself as the leader of all nations.
How do we address the plight of the Black male? Have you ever noticed the intense passion and commitment exhibited by many when it comes to saving endangered animals or protesting against the killing or maltreatment of animals? Don’t get me wrong, I am a bonafide animal lover. But, as I reflect on the condition of Black men and boys in America, one would be hard pressed to find a more endangered species. Black males typically rank at the top of most negative social, financial, health, and educational indicators known to man. That being said, the level of violence and wanton disregard for themselves or human life among some Black males must be addressed. The level of violence perpetuated by Black males towards other Black males is not new, but is very predictable. I have never seen or heard of a Black male or any infant born into the world as a car-jacker or gang-banger. An infant is born into the world like a blank computer. They become what parents, educational systems, and communities upload into them. Can we realistically expect any child to become a teacher, doctor, lawyer, scientist, or law enforcement professional with the conditions and perceptions associated Black males?
As a Black male who has worked in and with law enforcement my entire professional career, it pains me to see and feel the heightened level of mistrust and fear between law enforcement and minority communities, in general and Black males in particular. I have personally witnessed the frustration of hardworking law enforcement professionals, black and white who are labeled racists or bad cops based on the actions of a few racist or bad cops. Getting beyond the mistrust will require a collective willingness of law enforcement and the minority community to build stronger relationships to alleviate the mistrust and fear that currently exist. It will also require diversifying the law enforcement profession to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse America. All Americans must recognize the pain and suffering of the families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty is no less painful than that of the families of Black males unjustifiably killed by law enforcement. Either way, the loss erodes the soul and connectedness of all humanity. The families of neither law enforcement professionals nor Black males should have to worry or wonder whether their family member will return safely when they leave their home. We must work collectively to ensure this is not and does not become the reality or accepted in the America we know.
Randy B. Nelson, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Bethune-Cookman University Criminal Justice Administration Graduate Program. Dr. Nelson is a nationally recognized Law Enforcement and Community Engagement trainer.