A friend of mine, now deceased, wrote a play some time ago called, “Our Young Black Men Are Dying and Nobody Seems to Care.” The playwright, James Chapmyn, composed this choreopoem which has the “voices” of young, black men, now dead, telling their stories. They are dead – some from police violence, some from black-on-black violence, some from HIV/AIDS …and nobody, it seems, cares.
I’ve seen excerpts of the work. What I saw was chilling; it brought me to tears. Young, black, men, crying for someone to hear them, care about them…Chapmyn’s work was spot-on.
And yet, in spite of this work and the truth it shares, the situation is still the same. Young, black men are dying and still, nobody seems to care.
The silence of everyone is troubling; the silence and lack of desire to become involved by black people is heart-breaking. Silence means we acquiesce to situations before us. We are acquiescing to the violence and the “reasons” that the violence is said to occur that we have been fed.
Just this morning, I read the piece about the young man in North Carolina, 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, who, while his hands were handcuffed behind his back and he was sitting in a police care, apparently shot himself in the head and died. (http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/police-say-teen-shot-self-head-while-hands-cuffed-behind-back)
How does one do that? How is it possible? And why are we who think the story sounds “off” so silent?
OK. So Huerta isn’t black …but he is a young man of color…who is dead…under suspicious circumstances…and he’s not the first one for whom this kind of story has been told. In 2012 in Arkansas, 21-year-old Chacobie (Chavis) Carter apparently managed to do the same thing. Sitting in the back seat of a patrol car, young Carter was found dead, a small caliber pistol found near him, and his hands were still handcuffed. (http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/police-say-teen-shot-self-head-while-hands-cuffed-behind-back) In 2012 in Texas, yet another handcuffed teen managed to shoot himself in the head while handcuffed. (http://www.salon.com/2012/12/06/another_handcuffed_young_man_manages_to_shoot_himself/)
It just doesn’t seem feasible that a person can shoot himself while his hands are locked behind his back …and yet that’s the bill of goods we are being told…and nobody is saying anything.
I wonder if we are afraid to speak up and speak out. Do you remember how, in the movie, Twelve Years a Slave, that nobody said anything, did anything, while Solomon Northrup was hanging from that rope? For hours, he hung there, and people looked…and then looked away. Only a few were brave enough to offer him a drop of water. And I have read how, even during the height of the Civil Rights movement, though everyone knew horrible things were going on, few people had the courage to say or do anything. They had reasons; they were threatened with loss of life, home, job …or all of the above…and so they kept silent. The Civil Rights movement brought about change because young people and children …who had little to lose economically, refused to be silent.
Is it that we are still afraid to speak up against injustice because we feel we have too much to lose? Nobody wants to be labeled…you know, called a “radical” or “trouble-maker.” Everybody just kind of wants to go along to get along…and to hang onto what they have. The threat of economic and social ostracization is real. Many good people have remained silent, trying to hold onto their piece of “the American dream” and what little status they have. Fannie Lou Hamer, I remember, was beaten nearly to death and lost her home when she dared speak up for voting rights for black people. Nobody wants to be beaten or thrown out into the street for standing up for justice.
But what about the children? What about the modern-day lynchings that just keep happening? How in the world does a person with his hands in handcuffs behind his back manage to shoot himself in the head? I don’t get it. Are more of us questioning … but are afraid to “make a stink” about it” Is it that we feel like we cannot afford to speak up and speak out?
Is that why our young men are dying …and nobody seems to care?
A candid observation …