An addendum to the Handbook for Raising Black Sons

Posted: February 19, 2014

SO NOW there's apparently an addendum to the Handbook for Raising Black Sons. In addition to having the talk about how not to come across as a danger or a threat to . . . anyone, there's now a socially acceptable way to behave when those lessons are still not enough to protect your child.

I was channel surfing this weekend when I briefly landed on CNN and heard conservative pundit Ben Ferguson's comments on the Jordan Davis case.

Davis was the unarmed black Florida teenager who in 2012 was killed by Michael Dunn, a white man who shot Davis for refusing to turn down his "thug music." Dunn pumped 10 shots into an SUV that included Davis and three friends. Davis was killed; the three others survived.

On Saturday, a jury, which found Dunn guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder, convicted Dunn for almost killing the friends in the car with Davis that day.

But not of killing 17-year-old Davis. They deadlocked on whether Dunn was justified in killing Davis.

Political commentator Ferguson said "the untold story" was how gracious and dignified Davis' parents were after the verdict. He certainly wasn't the only one complimenting Davis' father and mother, who said she will pray for her son's killer. But something about how he characterized this struck a chord.

"That they were able to, in some way, and I don't even know how, not just be filled with this anger and venom, but to honor their son and legacy in such a way while they are heartbroken," he said. "And I hope that people take that away and realize that, you know, there are good parents out there . . . and that story should be told."

I changed the channel but Ferguson's words stayed with me. For a while I wasn't sure why they bothered me, until I realized that it was because his words were akin to Joe Biden in 2007 calling his then-presidential rival Barack Obama "clean" and "articulate," as if to signal he was different, more acceptable. Safe.

Because in the Davis case, Ferguson's words were spoken with a sense of relief that we don't have a couple of overtly angry black parents . . . because Jesus, whatever would we do then?

As if anger weren't an appropriate response to some fool blowing your kid away for nothing and then heading back to a hotel to order a pizza.

As if other black parents whose children are killed because someone deemed them a threat should take a page from them and behave similarly - so as to, what, not offend?

As if these parents should carry the banner for all grieving black parents everywhere.

God bless Davis' parents and Trayvon Martin's parents, who were equally strong after their unarmed 17-year-old son's killer walked free.

But anger is absolutely an appropriate response here - it would probably be my only response - especially when black kids continue to be killed and hurt just because someone deems them a threat.

There seems no end to the list of perceived threats that young black men present to others:

Do not read.

Do not drink from that water fountain or sit at that counter.

Do not whistle at white women.

Do not wear a hoodie.

Do not play music loud.

Do not say or do anything, including wear a hat and scarf on a record-cold day, that might make someone think you're hiding something, even if it's your face from the bitter cold.

It wasn't a homicide, but the case of Darrin Manning keeps jumping in my head as an example of what constitutes justice for young black men.

I have been disgusted, although not entirely surprised, with people playing the "degree of injury" game since medical documents showed the Philly teen who claimed that he was roughed up by cops last month didn't suffer a ruptured testicle, but a blood clot.

See, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey suggested, not as serious as he claimed.

See, readers pounced, the kid's a liar looking for a payday.

The case is admittedly a mess. A video captured only some of what happened on Girard near Broad. Eyewitnesses still aren't coming forward. And Manning's lawyer should have let him talk to Internal Affairs. I get why they didn't trust the cops to do right by them, but there's a process, and the last thing you want to do in a he-said/they-said case is give authorities an out because of lack of cooperation.

That said, one fact still remains: Within 24 hours of being arrested by police, Manning was in surgery for an injury that Children's Hospital of Philadelphia doctors suspected was a ruptured testicle when they wheeled him into the operating room. And that another doctor told me could have been caused by the circumstances Manning described.

So what, it's not so bad . . . it could have been worse. So it doesn't count? Is that the standard for the lives of black kids now?


Email: ubinas@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel

On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas

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