By Keith Boykin
Why should young Black boys feel as though their lives are endangered every time they walk out the door?
I was walking with my teenage godson in Miami Beach, Florida, last year during spring break when a police car turned on its flashing lights and sped toward us. My godson took off running and then stopped 20 yards later, turned around and laughed.
Once the police car drove by us, I lost my temper. “What are you doing?” I yelled. My godson’s smile quickly turned to horror. He could not understand why I was so mad.
“Don’t you know that young Black men get shot and killed for doing that?” I told him. “If you ever see a police car coming toward you, do not run away. That’s just going to give them an excuse to come after you.”
I felt sorry for yelling at him, and I apologized for my tone, but I stuck by my words, even as he looked at me as though I was some sort of relic from the civil rights museum. I could tell he didn’t fully believe me.
My godson is a good kid with a 3.7 GPA in his senior year of high school. He attended a mixed suburban school where kids of all races got along relatively well. Like many young Black suburban kids, he had not been directly exposed to the harsh reality of racial injustice in America.
So when I heard the news recently that an innocent, unarmed 17-year-old Black kid had been shot and killed in Florida by a white vigilante, I immediately thought of my godson.
All Trayvon Martin wanted to do was to play football and become a pilot when he grew up. But one day in February, as he was walking down the street of a mostly white neighborhood on his way back to his father’s house, he was confronted by George Zimmerman, a local neighborhood watch captain who suspected Martin of engaging in “suspicious” activity.
Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He provides political commentary for BET.com each week.
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