Commentary: Living while black seems to be problematic in America

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: Living while black seems to be problematic in America
October 24
09:27 2019

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

All of us want to live to see another day. Many of our prayers include the spirit-filled expression, “Keep me from hurt, harm and danger.” That prayer has sustained many of us during times of trials and tribulations.

It is my opinion that we are now undergoing a trial and a tribulation if you are black and living in the United States of America. In the minds of many African Americans, these are both the best of times and the worst of times.

As black people, our opportunities are better as jobs have increased and educational attainment has become a reality for more of us. Our children and grandchildren have brighter futures today. As important is the fact we are living longer. Medical science has greatly influenced our longevity.

Of course, these medical advancements have also influenced us to watch what we eat and to exercise more often. While some may disagree, I believe our spirituality has given us more years on this earth. As a believer, our God has ordered our steps and been a light to our path. This is what I believe.

People who look like me, beginning with our ancestors, always looked upward for divine intervention. From the ships that brought us over to the bridges that we now cross, He has always made a way, sometimes out of no way.

“Trouble don’t last” has always been a time-honored expression we first heard in our neighborhoods. We associated this expression with things getting better, but some recent events have shaken our confidence.

Just a few weeks ago, a young African American woman was shot and killed by the police in her house. That’s right, in her house! Atatiana Jefferson, a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in Louisiana, was playing video games with her nephew when this fatality happened.

The white policeman who did the shooting had been on the force since 2018. He has since resigned and is now charged with a crime. The officer said that he perceived a threat. Lee Merritt, the lawyer for the Jefferson family, said the officer fired so quickly that he didn’t have time to perceive a threat. When you read the transcript of this case, it is simply unbelievable.
Reports say the police were called to conduct a health and wellness check at the Jefferson residence. That is when something went terribly wrong. The neighbor, James Smith, who called police, said, “It makes you not want to call the police department. If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with?”

In my opinion, this statement resonates with a lot of black and brown people. The overarching question for me is, where are you safe? We know there is great liability for us when we leave our homes. We leave hoping that we will return to our homes. We must realize that we have no certainty that we will.

However, being inside of our homes is another matter. That should be the safest place to be. You would probably say that your house is a place where you won’t get shot to death.

As black folks, we know about driving while black all too well. The assaults upon us while driving have been well documented. Now, it seems that living in our house while black is becoming dangerous.

In a strange sort of way, is it safer to be outside of our house or inside of our house? I think we need to have a relationship with our local police. The police and our communities need to be intentional about knowing each other. Maybe a series of community meetings will help to secure our wellbeing. Large urban police forces, for example, must create citizen advisory committees composed of people who can serve as a conduit to the police in our district.

Simply stated, these are times when we must be on our guard outside of our house. And inside, too.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator and can be reached at

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