Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, another Black man is shot by the police — seven times in the back — while getting into his car, in full view of his three little boys sitting in the back seat. The horrific, heartbreaking scene was captured on video, but it still defies belief.
If there can be any bright spot in this detestable event, it’s that 29-year-old Jacob Blake will live. Whether the young Kenosha, Wisc., father will ever be able to walk again or run and play with his three boys is to be determined. But there are lasting wounds beyond Jacob’s physical injuries. How does one recover mentally from being shot seven times? And the emotional devastation to the three young boys who witnessed their father’s shooting will stay with them forever. Their grandfather said they ask over and over why the police shot their daddy. It’s beyond horrible.
Perhaps the game strike led by our Black sports stars provides a “ray of hope” that a solution can be found to the continuing atrocities perpetrated against communities of color in America. Many of our sports stars have already voiced their extreme displeasure and the need for change following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, also caught on camera.
On Wednesday night, the sports world took what I hope is the start of more definitive action, led by the Milwaukee Bucks, who called off their championship game in Wisconsin. Other teams, even outside the NBA, are also demonstrably taking a stand against the continuing injustice of police brutality and the seemingly out-of-control killing of Black men.
Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers spoke passionately: “It’s amazing that we keep loving this country, when this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad.” The Celtics too have canceled games, with shooting guard Jaylen Brown also sharing his very personal angst: “People post my jersey all the time, No. 7. And every time I look at my jersey now, what I see is a Black man being shot seven times.”
I feel a sense of relief that African American sports greats especially have “hit a pause for the cause.” But there needs to be a plan that helps work toward real change. Many have their own stories of police brutality. They know they may be famous but understand that celebrity status doesn’t hide the fact that their blackness has negative repercussions in America. Celebrity does give them the bully pulpit to call attention to, articulate and demand the change they want to see.
Let’s face it, the work is cut out for us — on several fronts. The BLM movement needs to be rescued from the infiltration of white anarchists and other crazies, including paid disruptors. Two days after Blake’s shooting, a 17-year-old white teen strode down the middle of the street in Kenosha, wielding an AK47, indiscriminately shooting and killing at least two of the protesters in full view of the police and within earshot of protesters screaming to police, “He’s shooting,” “He’s got a gun.” Chris Cuomo opined to Don Lemon on CNN that if that shooter were a Black man, he would be riddled with bullets by now. The suspected shooter has been arrested — so, too, should the veteran cop who could find no better way to restrain a Black man turning his back to get into his car than to shoot him seven times in the back in front of his children.
There’s a debate over whether the marches should slow to a halt, with a focus instead on devising plans and programs to dismantle racist and unjust police policies. I believe we need both — just as we did during the civil rights movement.
As importantly, there’s a need to call out those who want to denigrate the movement for their own negative purposes. A quick response team needs to be in place to shine the light on these bad actors and to quickly distance and isolate them. Perhaps local chapters of the NAACP could join forces with local Black Live Matters representatives to take that on.
Most of all, there needs to be ongoing definitive action plans for real problem solving. Hopefully that comes from the solidarity illustrated by our sports teams and from others who are working to deconstruct structural racism, injustice and police brutality.
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling is a media and political strategist and communications specialist.