With recent police shootings, black residents more fearful

A black mother-to-be worries about her unborn son. How will he make it, she says, when it seems lately the police are using black men for target practice?

A black Episcopal vicar wonders the right approach to help people understand the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

A black mother of three is reminded of a loved one’s death two decades ago, in an incident involving police.

The news in recent days has been jarring: Wednesday morning, cell-phone video footage surfaced of a man being shot to death by Baton Rouge police in an incident outside a convenience store. The next day, the footage was from an incident more than a thousand miles away, where a man was shot to death during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis. Black residents in metro Atlanta say with every new incident, the fear of finding themselves in direct danger grows.

“It’s just been hard and sad … and depressing,” said Angela Evans, 34, of Atlanta.

For Evans, who works for a food service vendor contracted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was Tuesday’s shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge that hit hardest. In 1992, she says her uncle died after a run-in with police.

She said seeing Alton Sterling’s son sobbing uncontrollably during a press conference the day after his father’s death evoked painful memories from her uncle’s death.

“I think about their family, and I think about my family,” she said. “And I think about my own son. It has me scared for him. He’s a good kid, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference these days.”

‘How far have we really moved’

Brian Williams said he is concerned that the recent police shootings are forcing the wrong people to change the way they go about themselves.

“I’m tired of saying to young black men, ‘This is how you respond when you get pulled over by the police,’” said Williams, director of the Alonzo Crim Center in Atlanta. “’You put your hands out the window, you don’t go into your glove box. Comply, comply, comply.’

“We’re having these conversations with the victims to prevent them from being victimized.”

He woke up Thursday to the news that his 88-year-old uncle passed away in his sleep. Then he read about Philando Castile, shot multiple times in Falcon Heights, Minn., by a police officer during a traffic stop for a broken taillight.

“This man lived through Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, was a military man during World War II,” he said of his uncle. “Juxtaposing his life with those lost in the last few days and bigotry in our country, to see the things my uncle dealt with in 88 years it makes you wonder how far have we really moved with issues of race in the U.S.?”

‘I want my son to come home’

The Rev. Ricardo Bailey, vicar of the Episcopal Chapel of Emmaus House in Southwest Atlanta, is sick and tired of seeing hashtags in front of the names of African Americans killed by police.

“As a black man and also as a minister of the Gospel, obviously, all lives matter. I get that,” Bailey said. “The disconnect for me is that while I, as a minister, have to be inclusive as well as somewhat tactful in my approach, for some reason people still don’t understand that we as black people say, ‘black lives matter.’”

He wonders why it appears others feel threatened by black people.

“For me that’s a very serious problem,” said Bailey, 42, and a father of three daughters and a son. “I would not trade my assignment for anything in the world. I love being with my people and my people are no different than anybody else in the (Episcopal) Diocese of Atlanta, or the United States of America.”

Bailey, a former police chaplain, understands they, too, want to safely go home to their families.

“But I, as a black man, I want my son to come home. I want my friends to come home. I want the people I serve down here to come home.”

Prayer is the only answer

Akilah Lee of Lawrenceville worries about her unborn son, due in about six weeks.

She says she and her husband always wanted a boy. When they got the news, they were delighted. The past few days have left them wondering what extra they may have to do to protect him. Right now, prayer is the only answer that comes to mind.

“We’re going to have to do the best we can to stick with our beliefs,” said Lee, 35, a training specialist for a healthcare technology company.

And she’s wondering how a conversation that reached a fever pitch after the 2014 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., still hasn’t had an impact.

‘Why does it always have to be fatal?’

Sixty-year-old Glen Battle sees an obvious disconnect with police when it comes to stopping and detaining people of color.

He said he sees no justification in the shooting death of Philando Castile for a busted taillight.

“Why are you drawing your gun on someone for a traffic violation?” said Battle, who works in the transportation department for the City of Atlanta.

He had already reached his tipping point after the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old unarmed black man in Oakland, Calif. by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer.

“I’ve observed other people and how they’re dealt with (by the police),” he said, referring to Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black members of an AME church in Charleston, S.C. Roof, he pointed out, is still alive.

“Look how we’re dealt with as African Americans,” he said. “We’re considered such a threat to police officers. We’ve been given this label that we’re barbarians. Why can’t you use a Taser or some other method to suppress or apprehend someone, why does it always have to be fatal?”

Battle said he worries about the safety of his two adult sons, both of whom live in California.

He’s told them to be humble. Don’t raise their voice. And at no time make any fast moves.

“I feel like I have to do that to make sure my sons don’t become victims,” he said. “And even that might not help.”

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