Fighting violence and the fear of violence


When my son was younger, my worst fear was that he would be molested. I did everything in my power to keep that from happening. Prayed for his protection, taught him no one should touch him in certain places. I didn’t date or bring anyone into our home or drop him anywhere unattended. Many say I overprotected him, but today, he’s OK.

Now that he’s older, my worst fear is murder. Many ills plague black men today, two major deadly things include a “civil war” in inner cities fueled by gun violence. Then modern-day lynching in the form of unarmed black men being executed by police. Even when cameras record and expose these unjustified killings, justice isn’t always served.

My father, who died before my son was born, was a police officer who served the community with respect and in turn was well-respected. I’ve taught my son to be respectful of the law and police. But it may not help because of how he looks. As a black man, he’s a target, literally. Police officers in North Miami Beach confirmed that by using pictures of minorities — mostly black men — for target practice.

Our taxes pay police salaries for protection, but rogue officers spill our sons’ lifeblood, claiming to fear for their own lives. How can unarmed men be a danger to these armed men behind badges? Our sons are not wild bears, menacing lions or rabid dogs to be gunned down if running away from police. Like police, they’re human, someone’s father, husband, our sons.

As the list of police-provoked deaths grows, a new incident emerged this week in Baltimore, Maryland. It was gratifying to see the city’s mayor and chief of police take responsibility for something that has been wrong for a long time, promising swift justice.

Then the prayers, funeral and what was planned as peaceful protest. But violence and looting erupted. It became clear once again that two wrongs do not a right make. A mother was seen in the midst of it applying the rod of correction to her son who appeared to be part of the protest mob. The police chief exclaimed that he wished more mothers would take similar action to correct their sons. Proper discipline is critical.

I spoke with my mentor, former U.S. Rep. Carrie P. Meek, seeking solutions. She’s seen the gamut from lynchings to shootings. She said “Pray! Trust God.” Another mentor who died earlier this month at 89, David M. Pemberton, and who decades ago found his wife’s relative lynched on their front porch, said the same.

What strikes me about these elders is they’re not bitter or full of hate. Recognizing truth, they pray and live forgiveness. Their peaceful protest brought about positive change; they’re champions of justice. Violent protest doesn’t bring about peace or secure justice. These and other lessons from our elders must be imitated.

How do we stop the senseless killings? Can mothers rejoice in seeing sons, the fruit of their womb, fully grown and take comfort they’re not endangered species? Murder both within our community and outside, like molestation, is a violation of trust and lack of respect. Such violence leaves a long bloody road paved with broken hearts.

Rogue police, gangs and others perpetuating violence must be stopped. In black communities plagued by crime, witnesses should tell — and police should protect. “Curfew” might be a bad word to some, but as in Baltimore, a temporary one may be good measure until the violence is curbed. Skills training and jobs for our young men are essential.

What about executions by police? We live in a racist society. Police training has to be altered to address it with better psychological profiling and sensitivity training. The warrior “we vs. them” mentality must be modulated. Revive and increase officers’ structured involvement within the community they police i.e. church visits, reading to children in schools.

It’s critical to bridge the gap, eliminate what divides. We need teamwork at home and in the community, coupled with respect and fairness. Moms should know that sons, even after they’ve grown, will be OK — at least on this issue.

Carmen Morris is the owner of a Miami public relations/marketing firm and the founder of Sanctuary of Moses, nonprofit organization fighting child trafficking and slavery in Benin, West Africa.