Feelings of sadness, anger, distrust and bitterness are like shards of glass slicing through America’s Black community. You witness that expressed by thousands of Black people in the streets protesting what they perceive to be unjustified killing of Blacks by law enforcement.
They, though, are not the majority. Not even close. Most won’t voice their pain publicly. Instead, it is internalized. They don’t participate in marches or step in front of the news media.
They sit alone, or with family, or in small groups in virtual coffee shops of anguish. Zoom hasn’t created a device for all of them to meet and voice what they really feel.
But let there be no mistake, the outcry is as loud in their hearts as it is silent to the ear. And it is a movement.
The public lynching-by-knee of George Floyd and the other questionable killings of Blacks by law enforcement, including a recent incident in Lafayette, had the silent majority in conversation. Then Kenosha, Wisconsin, happened.
How is it, they ask on social media, that a white Kenosha police officer can justify shooting a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in the back, but allow a 17-year-old White vigilante armed with a semi-automatic weapon around his neck walk through their ranks like a ghost? Even as a crowd shouts to arrest him.
Those publicly silent groups say on social media or convo on their phones that the vigilante was not old enough to volunteer for the U.S. armed forces, but he was clearly a dangerous armed force. Police gave him the “right on” nod. “Heck, it’s just a White boy with a rifle walking around a lot of Black people protesting in the streets. What could go wrong here?” Some reports even have police sharing water and thanks to similar gun-toting thugs.
Two days earlier, this same Kenosha law enforcement community considered a Black man, perhaps with a knife, walking away from an officer, as life-threatening and deserved to be shot seven times in the back. Again, in the back.
The silent Black majority, through subliminal messaging, asked what would be the tally of bullets fired at a 17-year-old Black kid walking toward law enforcement holding a killing machine?
We know. Several years ago, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was walking away from Chicago police officers, while holding a knife, when he was shot 16 times by one police officer. You probably had forgotten about that one, but the silent majority didn’t.
What also galls this group of Black people is that after the Kenosha vigilante allegedly killed two people, he had a difficult time surrendering to authorities. On one video, law enforcement officers seemed disinterested in the person walking from a shooting scene with a gun and his hands up. Some in the silent majority say, a 17-year-old black boy in the same position would be dead or wounded.
The silent majority mentally screamed in approval Tuesday, when Los Angeles Clippers Basketball Coach Doc Rivers announced he had had enough of the senseless killings.
While Republicans talk about fear, he said, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. … If you watch that video (of Blake being shot) you don’t need to be Black to be outraged.” We should hope.
Some say the Black community should worry about the killings happening in urban neighborhoods. That’s true, but the causes and solutions are complicated. Let’s be clear: None of that excuses the senseless killings of unarmed Black men — and sometimes women — by officers of the law.
The silent Black majority talks about the need to vote, to build and rebuild their communities from the inside out and try to map out strategies that allow decent men and women in law enforcement — well trained in de-escalation and putting aside the subconscious stereotyping Black people see too often — to do their jobs safely, effectively and humanely.
They are fighting an uphill battle because of pushback from many who see no advantage to improving communities of color. Still, that silent majority plows on behind the scenes pushing ideas, direction and hope.
But even they may have a breaking point after hearing the phrase “unarmed Black man killed by …” for the umpteenth time and feel compelled to raise hell. Patience is a virtue, but it’s not forever.
Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.