16 May 2015

This is NOT my story

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT my story ... this is my brother's story. But as his sister, who listened in horror as he told it to me, I HAVE to say something.

When Michael Brown was gunned down in the streets of Ferguson, MO, I kept quiet. I didn't take to my blog or Facebook or anywhere else to discuss my feelings. And when I finally did, I was ... for lack of a better word, attacked ... by someone I thought I knew very well and who I thought knew me very well ... as being a racist or race baiter or some other inflammatory term that was used to try and put me in my place. After going round and round with her about it, I said, "let's just agree to disagree" and sat down and was quiet again. And then Walter Scott was killed in North Charleston, SC - and I kept quiet. Akai Gurley was gunned down in a stairwell in Brooklyn, NY and I kept quiet. In New York, Freddy Gray mysteriously broke his own spine while in police custody and eventually died from the injuries - I kept quiet. And the list of names goes on and on ... and I still kept quiet.

But then today, something happened that hit too close to home and I can no longer keep quiet. You see, today the craziness brought itself right up to my doorstep and into my heart and life. This morning, my brother rode his bike up to a drive thru window at a bank and was told that since he was not in a vehicle, they could not take his deposit and that he would have to go into the branch located in the mall to conduct his business. Ok. That's a little frustrating - he's at the window, take the money - but that's your policy, ok, I'll go inside the mall. He rides up to the mall and sees that there is no where to securely lock his bike, so he rolls it into the mall with him. He enters the bank. All of a sudden, the security guard is in his face, screaming and cursing, that he needs to get out of the bank with his bike. According to my brother (and to a little old lady who later came to his defense), my brother CALMLY responded, "there was nowhere for me to secure my bike outside, I will only be here for a minute, just chill out". The guard continued to yell and scream and curse at my brother - which drew the attention of other customers in the bank, who pulled out their cell phones and began recording the incident, as well as other shop owners near the bank. Now, my brother lives in the area, shops at the mall all the time and the shop owners know him to be a respectful, well-mannered customer. They also came to the bank to stand in defense of my brother. (Praise God for being raised the way we were. Our mother taught us to ALWAYS greet people with respect and this paid off today.) When the security guard continued to yell and curse at my brother, he asked to see his supervisor. Another "gentleman" came on the scene, as well as a police officer in the area. The police officer, without assessing the situation or asking any of the witnesses around my brother what happened, joins in the noise and hoopla of screaming and cursing at my brother. Now, if you know my brother, you know at this point, things got ugly and harried and potentially dangerous. Fortunately, when the security guard tried to say that he never cursed at my brother and that Kevin was the one agitating the situation, a little old lady came to his defense. Told the newly arrived "supervisor" and the police officer, that my brother had been nothing but a gentleman - had held the door open for her, and did not respond to the security guard who was originally screaming and cursing at him.

I don't know how the situation was resolved without my brother being put in the back of the police vehicle and carted away. I don't know why guns weren't drawn and shots fired. I can only credit the protective power of God and the fact that my mother calls the names of my brother (and me) every day in prayer.

As I listened to my brother tell his story, he was still angry. He was still cursing. He was still mad. So I had to keep quiet again to allow him to blow off the steam necessary for him to then turn around and walk into his place of employment without wanting to gun down every employee in the place who looks like and acts like the police officer and security guard that tried to hem him up because he rolled a bike into a bank. Now, I don't know about you, but I've seen other people (bike messengers, couriers, etc) RIDE their bikes into businesses and no one says a word. Was it the color of my brother's skin that prompted this security guard to react in the way that he did? Maybe. But according to my brother, the security guard that started the fight was a Black man. Only the police officer who came on the scene last was not Black. So I am not "race baiting" as I tell this story.

I am saddened and terrified by the world in which we live. A world where police officers, more often than not, are the enemy and not our friends. A world where Black men (and women) seem to have targets on their backs for every power hungry person with a little bit of ... authority with a gun strapped to their side. I cringe every time I see a video where someone not of color is allowed to spit in the face of a police officer - nothing happens - or run towards a police officer with a knife in their hand - nothing happens - BUT let a Black man run AWAY from a police officer and the police officer can shoot him 8 times in the back and say, "I feared for my life" and if not for the video of a citizen showing otherwise, would have gotten away with it. It sickens me and makes me sooo glad that I didn't bear any beautiful Black baby boys to grow up in fear of their lives.

This is not the first time my brother has had a run-in with the police. Unfortunately, I know in my heart and guts and soul, that this won't be the last. All I can do is join my mother in her prayers for his continued protection and safety until such time that he can move out of the neighborhood that he lives in, and into one where things are "better" (whatever THAT means in today's society).

I usually try to wrap up my blog postings with a scriptural lesson - a text - something that points to God. I am at a loss. Maybe it's the anger. Maybe it's the sadness. I don't know. I know I am grateful to God for protecting my brother. I have been to way too many funerals today and am not ready to don a black dress and sit on the front pew of a church and listen to people spin stories about the man they know my brother to be. I am not ready to have to support my mother through the senseless loss of her only child. I am not ready to become a campaigner or crusader against injustices found every day in our community and around the world. I'm not ready.