Realizing Your Power: What It Means To Have A Black Sheriff And Reclaiming The Black Narrative
Across the nation and historically in the south, it’s no secret there’s a deep lying tension between the black community and law enforcement, due to the chronicled police brutality and racial injustices. They say all wounds can be healed and people can change in time, but to the average black American, it seems as if time hasn't yielded any progress. I do believe the relationship between law enforcement and the black community has progressed overtime, but the underlying roots of racism, miscommunications, lack of empathy, and other factors that cause unjust acts of police brutality are still alive and thriving. Constructive conversations are productive, and always a great starting point to tackle the issues that have plagued the black community for decades.
On Monday June 17, 2019, at Charlotte’s black owned co-working space, beSocial, Jeffrey Lockhart of The Clean Slate USA, and Mecklenburg County Sheriff, Garry L. McFadden, were willing to discuss the long-awaited solution(s) to help prevent police brutality in black communities. Among attendees were community board members, leaders, and other Charlotte government officials. The room was filled with an energy that could've been bottled up and sold. It was refreshing to be face to face with Charlotte's Sheriff, but more importantly, it was gratifying that he looked like me and everyone else in the room; black. The conversation between Lockhart and Sheriff McFadden had been marinating in my mind for quite some. The conversation resonated heavily as I watched McFadden answer every difficult question with a common undertone that expressed the power of the black community. Each difficult question directed at McFadden warranted an answer that went beyond telling racist cops to stop unlawfully policing and killing black men, women, and children.
Many of the attendees wanted to hear their Sheriff verbally denounce racist policing, but he had one better for those who were only present for emotionally driven problem solving. Not to insinuate that emotion isn't required when tragic instances of police brutality occur, but the sensationalism of police brutality amplified by media outlets doesn’t help because it sways the focus of the people to engage into emotionally driven problem solving, rather than problem solving with intellect and indifference. This was Sheriff McFadden’s focal point in his words as he urged individuals in the room to educate their peers on the power we have as black people, when we position ourselves to truly get justice for injustice.
There were instances throughout the conversation in which McFadden highlighted several issues within the process of prosecuting various officers involved in the killing of unarmed black Americans. One of which was the murder of Mike Brown, a teen from Ferguson, MI, who was shot by an officer thirty-five feet away from him. In this instance of blatant police brutality, the guilty conviction of officer Darren Wilson that was sought out by the black monolith was lost. How? Allow me to elaborate. There was misinformation between a key witness which made the officer’s story more credible to the jury. The irony in this is very substantial because the discussion of what a witness saw shouldn’t even have been brought into question, as officer Wilson himself admitted Brown was thirty-five feet away from him when the first shots were fired. That should’ve been the talking point in the black community, instead of the narrative being rested on the word of mouth of an inconsistent witness.
Essentially, this is how we lose almost every time. We must educate ourselves on the power we have to dictate the narrative as it pertains to convictions. Not only do black people have the power of getting justice out of injustice, but we have the power to control our own fate when up against systemic racism. One of our greatest strengths as a people is; we have more power than our emotions allow when faced with trauma. We tend to look to those in positions of power to provide perfect solutions that only ask the perpetrators of racism to fix themselves. Which is an ideal solution if you deem black Americans not powerful enough to make a change and wiggle out of the maze that asks the oppressors to stop doing what has worked for them for hundreds of years. By no means am I absolving them of their barbaric history, but we must educate ourselves enough about their history to understand it has, and always will be up to us to save ourselves from further harm.
There’s another shift on the horizon within our people, and I believe Sheriff McFadden is justified in his challenge to the community to step up and help those who are in his position. It will take a collective effort because there’s no easy solution to ending racism inside or outside the police force. Until we take back our power from the fear instilled into us by the very people who deceived us from thinking that we have none, we will continue to ask, what happened to black leadership? We must be more strategic with how we proceed with conquering racial supremacy and the systems created from it. We must trust the black leaders who at the very least, have chosen to challenge our community with accountability. Overall, Jeffery Lockhart and Sheriff McFadden challenged us to recognize our power beyond what our oppressors can do for us. The Power to educate, empower each other, and eventually reclaim our rightfully deserved justice.