Suza: Black men are our sons

Columnist Walter Suza encourages the ‘Golden Rule’ when considering the quality of the lives of black men. 

Walter Suza

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series conducted by Walter Suza. 

My son is Black. And I always fear for his safety. My fear stems from the fact that Black boys and men are two and a half times more likely to be shot by the police than their white counterparts. 

My son is in the school band and the year-end performance culminates with parents mingling in the high school cafeteria. 

This last year, I was sitting alone at one of the tables in the cafeteria. A white man approached my table and asked, “May I join you?” “Sure!” I said. 

The man proceeded to ask me questions such as, “Where are you from? What do you do? How long has your son played the trumpet?” 

I learned that the man was a police officer, which made me wonder why he came over to talk with me. Was it because I was Black or was he indeed interested in learning who I was and who my son was?

I worry that if my son was ever perceived to be acting improperly on the streets, he would not be treated as the white kids in the school band. Therefore, I teach him to pay attention to his surroundings and be prepared to stay calm and collected when approached by a police officer. 

I know my teachings are a heavy burden to him, but I also know these lessons might save his life if my nightmares should come true. 

I wonder if white parents see a need to have this talk with their white sons. 

I also wonder why I — as a Black parent living in the United States — have to have this conversation with my son.

Ahmaud Arbery’s death is the latest in a seemingly endless list of Black men being shot and killed by white people. The killing of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott are just a few more examples of the painful reality for Black boys and men in the United States. They will always be sons to their endeared but devastated parents.  

Unfortunately, U.S. Courts have often sided with law enforcement on cases involving Black boys and men killed by police. Moreover, speaking up against the killing of Black boys and men is associated with lack of care and appreciation for white lives and men and women in law enforcement. 

This is not true. 

I appreciate the law enforcement officers for keeping our country safe. But Black men and women also have the right to seek justice for their children who are killed by police or white vigilantes who believe it is their job to police Black people.  

We must recognize that, once we pull the trigger, the bullet transforms into a messenger of death that creates everlasting emotional pain in the loved ones left behind. 

This pain will not lessen unless our nation honors the truth that everyone has the right to live. The first step in honoring the truth is to abide by the ‘Golden Rule,’ “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” I hope upholding this rule will slow us down and prevent lives ending from the pull of that powerful trigger.