Black youth injustice exposed in Baltimore
The public and controversial pummeling of her teenage son by a desperate Baltimore mother physically exposed to the eyes of the world both the danger to American black youth behaving in ‘youthful impulse’ and black mothers’ fear of deadly police retribution against such youthful impulsiveness…a crime that can carry a death penalty by legal police bullet.
Until the April 2015 world-wide television exposure of this mother’s actions after the death of Freddie Gray from unknown cause while in police custody, many Americans had no clue concerning the depth of the emotional, mental and physical suffering caused by the inter-generational warfare waged by justice systems against other Americans, persons of African descent, young black males, especially.
Black youth in locales nationwide have experienced perpetual open season on their lives and liberty spanning lawful slavery, Jim Crow and Civil Rights Acts; and now expanded into 2015 mass incarcerations and repeated ‘justified’ homicides. For every excessively egregious homicide case thus far – from Trayvon Martin in 2012 to Freddie Gray in 2015 – ‘investigative processes,’ rather than fairness, create predominantly ‘justified’ outcomes. In 1944, teenager Willie Francis was twice placed in the electric chair for execution; George Stinney, Jr. was executed at age 14. In 2001 Timothy Thomas, age 19, having multiple traffic violations, was perceived to be “reaching for a gun.” Cash-for-Kids 2008 scandal exposed two Pennsylvania juvenile court judges. Thirteen-year-old kids tried as adults and sentenced to die in prison, says the Equal Justice Initiative.
Well, this Baltimore mother, by her public, ‘right then and there’ protective declaration, clarified to the eyes of this nation the piercing dread that she and her son face daily. Dismissive “thug” labeling no longer holds sway. Her fears for her child reflect the historic fears of scores of African-American parents.
By his own testimony during the subsequent television interviews of both the child and the mother, the son admitted that he knows his mother loves him, a knowledge and assurance foreign to many children today, both black and white. Even though he was not directly affected by the Freddie Gray tragedy, the son explained in the television interview that his presence at the rioting scene was in reaction to his awareness of the atrocities suffered by his friends and people he knew who had either died or who were otherwise harmed by the officially lawful behaviors of his and their natal city; victims of the patterns and practices of procedural injustice wherein publicly-sponsored keepers of law and justice, but official doers of injustice, are not publicly held accountable for their unlawful and unjust actions.
I had a long talk with my teen-aged grandson about his fears and his feelings. His life matters deeply to me. For, traditionally, younger persons of descendant family generations do not precede members of older generations in death. The pain is unbearable to both the ancestors and to family still living. But he said to me, “I love you too, Grandmother. And I know my parents love me and they want me to be safe.” When I asked how he felt about the police his response was inconclusive: “I just try to stay out of their way,” he said. Unsurprisingly, his reply was in keeping with the statistics of the charts taken from the 2014 Bishop’s Task Force Research on Racial Profiling, including the voices of urban youth and the homeless, all agreeing above 95% levels, that “I want good police…”
But how to achieve lawful safety? Firstly, the ‘at-risk’ peril for African-descendant children resides in the language of the Constitution – the very document that granted professed freedom to African slaves – but which today still holds the door open to prison re-enslavement. Re-read Section 1 of the 13th Amendment containing the ‘except as punishment for crime’ loophole, ratified in 1865, against which Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner so vehemently fought and instead sought more valid and moral “…no person under any entitlement circumstance or legal code can hold another as a slave.”
Who is at-risk of racial profiling? Compare the perceptions of Accomplished Professionals and Urban Youth.
Q. #17 “I know that I and my (grand)children are at risk.” ‘YES’ (82.4%)
Accomplished Professionals – Racial Profiling Experiences (RPEs)
Source: Data – The Bishop’s Task Force on Racial Profiling. Charles O Dillard, MD; William B. Lawson, MD
Q. #11 “I know that I (and my family) can be at-risk of racial profiling. ‘YES’ 89.3%
Source: Data – The Bishop’s Task Force on Racial Profiling. Elementz Hip Hop Arts CenterFrom another perspective, review also Ohio Revised Code 3319.074 on the professional qualifications required of teachers. ‘’Highly-Qualified” status, for example, may be accorded to persons who simply “demonstrate satisfactory progress” toward becoming fully licensed. No Child Left Behind, therefore, commands standardized testing of non-standardized teaching and learning. Which genre of “Highly Qualified” is ‘educating’ your children? Safety, it appears, is both multifaceted and multivariate.
In postlude: Turning himself in at the encouragement of his parents, one young Baltimore man caught on camera smashing car windows is being held under $500,000 bond and faces life in prison. Is this 18-year old worthy of emancipation, a second chance? Yes.
Merelyn B. Bates-Mims is a member of Christ Church Cathedral. She serves as General Co-Chairperson of the Organization of Procedural Justice sponsored by the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Bates-Mims, a Fulbright Scholar, also served as the principal investigator for the Bishop’s Task Force on Racial Profiling research.