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Killing of Black Men: Am I Next?

by Todd A. Smith

When Will it be Me?

          To some, pit bulls had more value than the life of an African American man and now even cigarettes hold more value for some. 

It seems that everything on the planet is worth more than the life of an African American man.

          NFL star Michael Vick went to prison for approximately two years for killing pit bulls and still faces criticism today from animal lovers, but an African American man can be killed for no rhyme or reason, and those same protestors are probably silent on the issue.

          According to MSNBC.com, “Eric Garner, a Staten Island father of six, was tragically killed last month by New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo when he put the asthmatic Garner into an illegal chokehold.  His death was recently ruled a homicide by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office and Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to work with ‘all authorities involved’ to ‘ensure a fair and justified outcome.’”

          On Aug. 9, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo. was killed by officer Darren Wilson after an alleged scuffle that may have been the result of a convenience store robbery.

          As an African American man, when will my life be discarded and thrown away like I am a piece of trash and not someone’s loved-one?

          God forbid that should happen, but will catching my killers even be on the list of priorities for local law enforcement or will my family be left with just memories and unanswered questions?

          I once had a colleague tell me that I had set a bad precedent by stating that mainstream America does not value the lives and civil rights of African American men.

I made my statement after the “murder” of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and the brutal beating of Houston teenager Chad Holley at the hands of the Houston Police Department.

          While Holley was never the sympathetic victim that Martin was, their situations still suffered the same fate at the hands of the same types of people.

          They were both obviously violated by everyday citizens or law enforcement, but they never received the benefit of having the law stand up for them like it stands up for their White counterparts.

          When unnecessary and illegal killings of people like Garner happen, which seems like every other month, publications remember the countless number of Black men who lost their lives to senseless violence while their assailants were never brought to justice.

          We hear of people who were unknown before their shooting or death like Robbie Tolan from Bellaire, Texas or Sean Bell from New York.

          We hear reminders that the people responsible for killing celebrities like Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.IG. and Jam Master Jay were never brought to justice or even tried in a court of law.

          Unfortunately for me, I do not have to look at people I never knew to realize that a Black man’s life is not worth the ink that was used on his birth certificate.  I can simply look at both sides of my family and remember several relatives who were killed while their murderers were never brought to justice.

          My father’s oldest brother Leon “Hollis” Smith, Sr. was murdered at a nightclub in Kentwood, La.  Police say that his gun went off on its own while he was playing in a crap game.  However, my uncle carried his pistol in his waist and the gunshot entered through his chest meaning someone was standing over him with a gun.

          My second cousin Walter Eaglin was gunned down in front of his own nightclub in Lake Charles, La. days before Thanksgiving.  My cousins Moses and Timothy still do not know who killed their father and his grandchildren never got the chance to meet him.

          Another second cousin, Richard Sinegar, worked off shore and mysteriously went overboard one day.   His co-workers said he fell over, but they did not report he was missing until they reached their destination.  My great aunt never recovered the body of her only child.

          While I am fully aware that everyone does not undervalue the life of a Black man, too many people do undervalue us.

          What ignorant people have to realize is that Black men have dreams that are permanently ruined when our lives are taken away prematurely.

          Our children grow up without their fathers or any answers to what really happened to them.

          Our mothers and wives cry themselves to sleep too when a part of their soul is ripped permanently out of their chest.

          While I am not a pit bull or a box of cigarettes I am a Black man, one of God’s most unique creations and my life is worth way more than mangy mutt or a camel (i.e. Camel cigarettes) and anyone who cannot realize that has a brain that must not be worth very much.

This article was published on Friday 15 August, 2014.
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