When I was coming of age in North Carolina my parents would kiss, and off my father went to work. My mom also worked.
I went to school and each evening both of my parents returned home from work. There were times when one was late but it was rare.
This scene played out in my neighborhood all the time. If you are a baby boomer like me, you experienced the same thing.
I never thought about my dad or mom not coming home. Knowing that fact always gave me a sense of peace and security.
Were there guns in my neighborhood during this time? If there were, we kids didn’t know anything about them. Quite honestly, I don’t think there were any gun owners on my block.
I can’t remember anyone getting shot in my neighborhood. Are you kidding me? That just didn’t happen. Switch blades were around during my time and the bearers of them did more talking than cutting.
That was then, a different time and a different environment. People valued life more and settled their disagreements without killing one another.
Now in 2017, it is a different story.
When a man of color leaves home in the morning, there is no guarantee that he will return during the evening. When a young boy says, “See you later, Dad,” that may be the last time he sees him alive. When daddy’s little girl asks where her daddy is, sometimes the response is heartbreaking.
Black men in America walk a dangerous walk.
The relationship between Black men and the police is problematic, at best. That is my opinion and an opinion shared by others, both Black and White.
There are efforts made by communities and the police to develop codes of conduct and civility. Some have worked while most have not.
The problem, I believe, is the judgment some police officers use. For example, do you shoot someone who is on the ground when you have a backup officer standing next to you? Do you shoot someone who is following your specific instructions?
Black men are being shot by the police almost monthly. Does anyone care?
Those who disagree with this assertion are entitled to their opinion.
Unfortunately, color in America, especially for African American men has been and will always be a sticking point. That is the reality that men who look like me deal with every day.
Race trumps socio-economic status. Just ask James Blake, a retired tennis player who was assaulted by New York police last year. Or maybe you should ask Henry Louis Gates, a distinguished Harvard professor who ran into difficulty with the police in front of his Massachusetts home.
The good news is that neither Blake nor Gates was killed.
This was not the case for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile who were killed in Louisiana and Minnesota respectively. These Black men like countless others didn’t have to be killed. They were simply confronted by the wrong type of police officer. There are good police officers.
Jaheim Hoagland born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1978 debuted an album in 2001 entitled Ghetto Love.
One of the songs off of the album is entitled “Just In Case.” A part of the lyrics is, “just in case I don’t make it home tonight.” Jaheim is saying he wants to be affectionate because he is unsure if he will make it home tonight.
While I am not sure of Jaheim’s intent, this song could be the Black man’s anthem because we are simply not sure if we will come home tonight.
Race is best authenticated by looking in the mirror each day.
I wake up every day Black and male in America. That combination will create a certain set of challenges for me.
My perceived guilt takes a front seat to my innocence. I am watched in stores and ignored by many simply because I am Black. I am tried, tested and teased throughout my life always because I am Black.
If you wake up not Black, it is impossible for you to fully understand what Black men like me encounter.
If you have an extreme view of race then you will always say we’re guilty, undeserving and not approved.
So, if you are Black like me, hug everybody before you leave home just in case you don’t make it home tonight.
Dr. James B. Ewers Jr. served as a vice president and admissions director at several colleges and universities before retiring in 2012. A motivational speaker and workshop leader, he is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.