It is an undeniable fact that domestic terrorism is the greatest danger to America in the 21st century. However, if you are Black, your greatest fear is a man or woman in uniform who rides in a car with the quote, “to protect and to serve,” on the door.
You may have read the story of 25-year-old Jayland Walker, who was murdered by members of the Akron Police Department on Sunday. Walker was unarmed as more than a dozen police officers chased him in the early morning hours of July 3, 2022. More than 90 shots were fired at a Black man who had been pulled over for a minor traffic violation, an estimated 60 bullets penetrating the body of the young man.
It is entirely fair that when members of law enforcement, employed in a red state, are accused of acting in a manner exposing pervasive racism, are suspected of unfair treatment of a member of the Black community. This has become the norm in 21st-century America. Part of the aftermath of January 6, 2021, was learning that active and retired members of law enforcement and the military engaged in treason as they attempted to overthrow the government of the United States of America.
The Saturday Evening Post was proud to place copies of Norman Rockwell’s legendary portraits of life in America in the 1950s and 1960s on the covers of their magazines. Many of them contained “men in blue,” policemen who served our communities in their everyday performance in America. However, I learned later in life that these were illusions that existed only in areas of our cities that were predominately white.
I would never pretend to understand what it was like to grow up Black in America. I did learn that there were and continue to be “two Americas,” one for whites who enjoy “white privilege,” and one for Blacks who are taught at an early age how to avoid physical violence from law enforcement, and possibly save their own lives.
Sadly, not much has changed over the last 60+ years. White privilege is a reality. I enjoyed the situation growing up in West Los Angeles. However, in high school, I had friends who literally lived in a very different world. I could hardly believe what I was told.
As a writer, it pains me to report what appears to be the same story over and over again. For me, it became a reality in 1991, not because it was the first time I read about the abuse of a Black man by a member of law enforcement, but because it was the first time the video revealed the unforgivable level of brutality. It became all too real.
In the years since I began writing about the reality of America, I watched other films of Black men and women being murdered by cops. I watched Eric Garner as he was strangled from behind in New York. The most recent was George Floyd whose plea of “I can’t breathe” sickened me as officer Derek Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck until he died in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
Every time I hear a politician claim that “America is the greatest country in the world,” I become nauseous. Our country is ranked 15th in quality of life, and 17th in education. As long as racism is accepted in my America, greatness is a word that will never be attached to the United States of America.
We all must make a decision about our own future and the future of our country. If you listen to the racist propaganda on Fox, Newsmax, One America, or other similar fake news broadcasts, your vision of America is distorted. These anti-American broadcasts spread anger, fear, hatred, and incite violence with the obvious intent of dividing our nation’s people. If you read, you might learn that this diverse nation in which we are privileged to live is composed of people who all want the same thing, we just happen to have different histories, worship our God in different ways, and possibly have different skin color. But never deny that we are the same, regardless of the lies from right-wing politicians.
Op-Ed by James Turnage, Novelist
Mother Jones: Footage Shows Ohio Cops Unleashing Hail of Gunfire on Unarmed Man; by Isabela Dias
Aljazeera: Know their names Black People Killed by the Police in the US; by Alia Chughtai