By Nate Jackson
(Part I of Two Parts)
The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has triggered destruction for a community and possible irreversible harm. My name is Nate Jackson and I am an African American retired Fort Lauderdale, Fla. police detective with 32 years of law enforcement experience. My law enforcement career was launched in Detroit, Michigan, which provides me with firsthand knowledge of the effects of what rioting can do to a community and the nation. I want to offer my sincere condolences to Michael Brown’s family. It is a tragedy that no parent should have to endure. The premature death and burial of a child through a violent act is truly a calamity. I extend my sympathy to all parents who have suffered such heart wrenching catastrophes.
However, the majority of the premature deaths of our young African American (Black) males did not actually begin by the penetration of a bullet or through some other violent means. As sad as it may sound or even appear the annihilation of many of our young Black males is initiated at birth. I will elaborate on that shortly. On the job, I encountered a parent that arrived to a scene after learning her son had been shot. Six weeks earlier, I remember talking to her son because he wasn’t in school. I took the time to counsel him informing him of the importance of an education. While looking at this young man lying on the pavement, there were obvious signs that he was dying, but I had to lie to his mother and tell her that her son would be okay. That lie tormented me! I too am a parent, and no parent should face the agony of seeing their child dying.
Personally, I don’t know Michael Brown; I can only theorize based on the footage on television that shows him as a high school graduate smiling with lots of potential, to a much different image captured by the surveillance camera in the convenience store where he seems to show aggressive behavior. The camera appears to reveal that Michael possibly stole something from the store, and as he exits the store, a male, which may be an employee or the store’s owner, attempts to stop him and was shoved. Michael’s physical statute discloses a considerable sized individual with an intimidating demeanor. Yet, my assessment of Michael could be inaccurate and of course, it is not meant to offend his family, friends and love ones that are going through a grieving period.
The purpose of this article is for an educational tool where lives can be liberated not slaughtered by police officers or by anyone because of race or nationality. I am unable to account for Officer Wilson’s motive for firing six rounds into Michael from a distance. Also, I am unable to imagine his mental state when the two encountered each other. It has not been determined, if Officer Wilson had knowledge of a robbery at the store or if there was a police broadcast providing a description of a possible robbery suspect. Yet, one can only wonder if Michael, having an obvious awareness of what occurred in the store, may have become the aggressor. Michael’s physique can look intimidating, therefore did his size cause Officer Wilson to panic and overreact by fatally wounding him? I am the first to acknowledge that white officers are more likely to kill Black males. As horrifying as it may be, history has disclosed that Caucasian male police officers fatality wound and murder African American males at an incredible proportion. But, if Michael was killed in the same circumstances, but by a Black male on the streets, would there be as much protest and rioting? I believe the answer is a big No! There are more fatalities of Black males at the hands of other Black males than by a different race or nationality. If we know this is the case, why aren’t these cases in Ferguson and other parts of the country being protested and riots breaking out in order to initiate change?
There is obviously a lot of reasonable anger due to past events of white police officers murdering Black males with absolutely no consequences. But, let us also take a look at what is occurring to-day. African American males are killing each other at an extremely alarming rate, more so than the KKK or any other racial group. With that said, we should put the same energy (if not more) into preventing these tragedies and killings in our communities. I too am a husband and father of three African American males. I have personally experienced the struggle of being a parent. I’ve felt the agony of what peer pressure can do to our young men and experienced of how drugs can have a devastating effect on our loved ones’ lives. I’ve witness my wife’s sleepless nights because she is afraid that a call will come through delivering heart breaking news. I’ve also witnessed peer pressure drive our son to dabble with gang life, only to discover that it is real and has serious consequences. And, witnessed what happens when a loved one makes poor choices and commits a crime that causes emotional and financial suffering for the entire family.
There is an epidemic of Black male casualties for a variety of reasons, but it starts from birth. Many Black males are born to young single mothers, some with multiple children. When the father is absent from the home and provides no guidance and direction, it can be difficult for a male to understand how to be a father or a true man himself. I have met men that have multiple children with a variety of women and this deprives their children the quality of life which a devoted parent brings. In economical deprived communities, our young men are oftentimes looking up to people committing the majority of the crime in their neighborhoods. So, our boys are getting their guidance and direction from “the streets” or are involved in gangs. As a law enforcement agent I’ve had unfortunate experiences of working multiple homicides cases involving our young Black men. I recall a case when a young man approached me around 7:00 in the evening seeking advice of what to do if he is approached by another male with a gun. I was stunned and shocked with the question and re-plied; “Do you have a weapon?”, and he responded “no”. I told him, “run like hell”. Approximately three hours later, at the end of my shift, I received a police radio broadcast of a shooting. I responded to the scene to find the same man lying face down in the sand suffering a gunshot wound to the chest. The man literally died in my arms and was only able to talk to me with his eyes. I had to pronounce him dead.