I awoke this morning to the story of Malik Williams of Garfield, NJ. Malik was wanted by Garfield, NJ police on an aggravated assault warrant and turned himself in. While he was being processed he, for some reason, changed his mind, escaped out of a rear door, ran to a garage of a private residence and barricaded himself in. He was eventually tracked by police who allegedly found him armed with tools from the garage. The two officers “felt threatened” and shot Malik numerous times killing him. Malik was 19.
For part of my life, I lived in the relatively small town of Teaneck, New Jersey. I grew up with a young man named Phillip Pannell. Phil was a bully, plain and simple. He’d take your Starter cap, he’d take your lunch money, but you’d see him later and he’d somehow have you playing him in basketball and laughing about your losses. That was Phil.
This is from WikiPedia….
On the evening of April 10, 1990, the Teaneck Police Department responded to a call from a resident complaining about a group of teenagers, one of whom was reported to have a gun. After an initial confrontation near the Bryant School and a subsequent chase, Pannell was shot and killed by Spath, a white Teaneck police officer. Spath said he thought Pannell had a gun and was turning to shoot him. Many witnesses said Pannell was unarmed and had been shot in the back. A fully loaded .22 caliber pistol was recovered from the jacket pocket of suspect Pannell. The weapon had once been a starter’s pistol that had been modified into a fully operable gun.
I was a sophomore in Teaneck High School when this happened and this incident has not left me since. In the days following, there were protests and even a full out riot. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton showed up at the high school trying to calm things down. Teaneck Police officers wore t-shirts in support of Spath, as if somehow he was justified in shooting and killing Pannell. There were town hall meetings and sensitivity meetings and such. Teaneck Police Officer, Gary Spath, a name I will never forget, was eventually found innocent of manslaughter and set free. If you went back to Teaneck, NJ today, and I have, you’d never know this happened.
Right now, many are justifiably outraged at the senseless shooting of 17 year old Treyvon Martin. Treyvon’s story has made national headlines and has even attention of DOJ. Eventually, the outrage will quell, and the headlines will die and Treyvon’s story will be another incident, in the long, tired, sordid history of young black men dying by the hands of police officers in this country simply for being young, black, and male.
All across this country, young black men are being antagonized by police, beaten by police, arrested by police and killed by police. And it has been that way for as long as I can remember. This is a REAL issue for us. I’ve heard some folks say…Well, ‘When you dress the part of a criminal….” That’s bullshit. I’ve been dressed like I just walked out of boardroom, and I’ve been harassed by police in my neighborhood. It doesn’t matter. When you are black and male in this country you can expect to be accosted by law enforcement for no reason at all and sometimes at your peril.
Our esteemed First Lady, Michelle Obama, has made a national issue of obesity. To show her commitment, she went so far as to do the “Dougie” (a dance created by young black men if memory serves me right), to get you to stop eating Twinkies. Recently, President Obama added his name to an effort to curb bullying which will appear on the Cartoon Network. These are most worthy causes and I applaud the POTUS and the First Lady for their efforts. I guess I just wonder, do I have to wait for the next administration before the mistreatment of young black men by law enforcement gets this kind of attention from the highest levels of government?
Because within months there will be another Malik Williams, more time will pass and there will be another Philip Pannell, and yes, soon, very soon, there will be another Treyvon Martin but what will change is the response from black men. At some point, we’re going to get tired of this, real tired. We’re going to stop asking for help. We’re going to stop writing long ass blog posts expressing out outrage We’re going to stop talking about it on talk shows and CNN
And that will be very, very a sad time for everyone.
RIP Timothy Stansbury, Yusef Hawkins, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Philip Pannell, Treyvon Martin, Malik Williams….