What If It Were My Son?

Freddie Gray is dead and nobody seems to know how it happened.

His body has not yet been released to his family. There has been an autopsy – though the results have not been yet released – and another, independent autopsy has been requested by the family.

But meanwhile, Freddie Gray lies dead and nobody seems to know what happened.

It is maddening that, after a week, nobody knows anything. It feels like incompetence and it begs an explanation as to why such incompetence exists. It feels like information is being withheld in an effort to protect the police.

It brings back memories of how the death of Michael Brown was handled.

I keep asking “What if it were my son?” I can only imagine the agony, the added-on agony, of Gray’s family as they wait for answers, and as they wait to lay their son and family member to rest.

His spinal cord was 80 percent severed, according to reports …and in this day of the highest technology, nobody seems to know how that happened. It begs credulity.

Eighty percent severed…

His ordeal began at 8:39 a.m. on April 12. He was put into the police van at 8:54 a.m. and by 9:24 a.m. he was not breathing or moving. He underwent “extensive” surgery, but it didn’t help.

What if it were my son?

What do you do, as a distraught parent or family member, when life has been snatched from someone you love but nobody will tell you how it happened? That type of death is as problematic as one caused by a plane falling out of the sky. Survivors want to know why and how? Anything less is unacceptable.

I know I would be suspicious by now. I would think that police and the courts and the coroner were keeping information from me. That belief would pour salt into the raw wound called grief and would cause deep anger.

This type of tragedy, suspicious deaths of people at the hands of police, has been happening for decades. The deaths have happened and the circumstances have primarily been blamed on the victim. The word of the police and courts has been taken as sacrosanct. As a result, there are a lot of parents, wives, and other family members who are walking around with two holes in their spirit: one caused by the death of their loved one and the other caused by the lack of knowing what really happened and by the knowledge that the police have been exonerated.

If it were my son, if I were seeing him being dragged by police officers, seemingly unable to walk, I would be weeping. If it were my son, my imagination would be making up all kinds of scenarios as to what happened to him, and I would be weeping. If it were my son, and I heard his cry as he was being dragged to the police wagon, I would be weeping.

But I would also be indignant and angry at the lack of explanation of what happened, why, and how.

My prayer is that the official report being waited for does not end up being an insult – to his family or to the community. My prayer is that someone will honestly explain why Freddie Gray was pursued without probable cause. Running from police may not be wise, but it isn’t grounds for arrest…and if there was no reason to approach him in the first place other than he didn’t look an officer in the face, then his arrest is even more problematic.

If it were my son, I would be weeping …but I would be working to get answers. I would be weeping but I would be reaching for some kind of viable explanation as to why my son was dead.

The six officers who were involved in the arrest have been put on paid administrative leave. That is not acceptable, not for me.If it were my son, their continued ability to make a living while my son lay dead would be insulting and troubling.

The mothers and fathers of slain children, no matter how old they are, are bleeding, all over these United States. They are hemorrhaging and nobody …seems to notice or to care. They are crying, weeping, wailing …because their children are “no more…”  The mothers and parents and family of Trayvon Martin, Kendrick Johnson, Jonathan Ferrell, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford, Jordan Davis,Lennon Lacy, Walter Scott. Eric Harris …and so many more … are weeping and hemorrhaging their grief over the earth.

The death of a loved one is hard enough on its own. For a loved one to die this way takes one past the point of being able to be consoled. There would be no words to assuage the pain if it were my son…

A candid observation …

When People See

Only when people think a problem is THEIR problem do they mobilize … and work.
Activist Chip Berlet said that people have to SEE trouble before they act on trouble. When people SAW, for example, women and children being attacked by police dogs and hosed down with fire hoses like they were pieces of burning wood, they acted – or reacted. From President Kennedy on down, people reacted. What they SAW horrified them.
When people SAW residents of New Orleans stranded on rooftops, standing in the heat on the Danzinger Bridge and outside of the Convention Center; when they SAW pictures of old people, sitting dead in wheelchairs after that horrific storm …they reacted.
We like to think that we are nice people; we like to think that we care about things. Thing is, our “niceness” usually needs a bump to get it activated and we usually care most when a situation touches and affects us directly.
Heroin addiction is on the rise; it apparently is no longer a “ghetto drug” but has made its way to people who are affluent. Now, THEIR children are overdosing; now THEIR families are being affected. Now they can SEE how devastating the drug is (and always has been) and because THEIR children and family members are falling because of it, they can also see that it’s not BAD people who become addicted.
Because THEIR children, THEIR family members, are not bad.
Right now, there is a pandemic of black and brown and poor people going to prison. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has told the story well, and in such a way that nobody can escape its power. At an event at which she recently spoke, she said something profound; she said, “All of us are sinners, and all of us are criminals.”
When the Prison Industrial Complex begins to really affect children other than black, brown and poor children, that statement will have new buoyancy.
But right now, what’s far too isolated, far too removed from THEM …is this whole issue of extrajudicial murders. Black children, black men and young boys, are being murdered. Some of the murdered’s organs are being removed. It is not a small problem; it is large and it is growing. And yet, there is silence…
THEY are not connected; THEY have not seen the horror for themselves. Who is “THEY?” Anyone who needs to see a problem but who does nothing. “THEY” are white and black and brown. “THEY” like to keep their heads in the sand and pursue their own material success and THEY do it well …until THEY see what’s going on because it affects THEM.
These kids and young people being murdered is a problem, an American, not a black problem, and it is spreading like a thick, black ink across our nation, city by city. Mothers and fathers and relatives are wailing, unable to get justice for their slain loved ones, because it has not touched THEM.
But it will. Spreading ink doesn’t make choices on who it stains; it stains anyone in its way …and the truth of the matter is that all of us are in its way. Some of us are just closer.
Trust and believe, the ink moves toward us all. The slain children and young people …are calling out to us all to SEE what’s going on …before it touches US.
A candid observation …