Commentary: Black men and the criminal justice system have a contentious relationship

Commentary: Black men and the criminal justice system have a contentious relationship
April 21
14:04 2021

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Our relationship with the criminal justice system has always been fragmented and problematic. As Black men, we have been hung up and hijacked by a system that is unfavorable and unforgiving.

We live this reality every day.

We leave our homes oftentimes pessimistic and peeved at what we will find. The odds are stacked against us.

Receiving the benefit of the doubt is not an option for us.

Unfortunately, Black men in America are always in danger of losing our lives. This is just the consequence of being an African American male.

The state of Minnesota has one of the largest malls in America, yet the focus on this state is not about shopping malls and sales.

It is on murder and manslaughter.

The case against former police officer, Derek Chauvin, is now over two weeks old. It will be coming to an end in the coming week or so.

As unsettled as the nation is about that case, there is another case involving the police and a Black man.

In Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Daunte Wright was shot and killed by officer Kim Potter.

Brooklyn Center is Minnesota’s most diverse city. It did not matter.

Officer Potter is a veteran with 26 years of police experience. The incident happened on April 12 and she resigned shortly thereafter.

I do not know what’s going on with the police and Black men these days. This officer shot him instead of tasing him.

Was it a mistake? If you ask her, it was.

Here is the problem in my opinion: The police officer in question was not a rookie. She was a seasoned police professional who had undergone countless hours of training on when to use her weapon and her taser.

What happened?

Did the years of preparation and training suddenly go awry in the decision-making moment?

Was it his Blackness or her fear that took over?

Only former officer Potter can answer those questions.

What are we left with now? The scene is all too familiar.

The family of Daunte Wright is grieving and will be grieving for a lifetime. Daunte Wright was 20 years old.

Katie Wright, his mother, said, “Justice isn’t even a word to me.”

That sentiment is shared by Black families who have lost boys and men at the hands of the police.

Reports say that Daunte Wright called his mother when he was stopped by the police. That was the last time she spoke to him.

This young man who still had a lot of living to do was stopped for expired license plates. How does a stop for expired license plates turn into a death?

It is tragic and terrifying beyond words.

The chief of police, Tim Gannon, has also resigned.

Did Potter and Gannon resign before they were fired? Were they protecting their pensions knowing the circumstances were not in their favor?

I believe so.

Kim Potter has since been arrested and charged with second degree manslaughter.

The televised killings of these two African American men prompt us to ask ourselves: Will things get any better?

We have talks with our children and grandchildren about what to do when stopped by the police.

That is what we do if you are Black.

If we comply with the police, that ends up bad. If we do not comply with the police, that ends up bad, too.

While some may disagree with this question, I believe it is a fair question. Do white people have conversations with their children about what to do when stopped by the police?

Oh, America, we must find some answers. If not, doom and gloom will continue to be at our doorstep.

It may be at mine today and at yours tomorrow.

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