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  • Dr. Obari Cartman

Firing Ben Fields Won’t Save Emmett Till

We be focusing on the wrong stuff sometimes. Sure, the terrorist should get fired for dragging that precious girl along the floor. He really should get more . If Zimmerman/Dante Servin/Darren Wilson/Daniel Pantaleo knew there was a possibility they might disappear in the middle of the night like Emmett, they would have been more likely to think twice in those pivotal moments. But that ain’t the precedent we set. We ain’t ready for that yet. Protesting, twittering, petitions and marching lets us vent enough to go back to work.

You every wonder if Emmett forgave Bryant and Milam? Did he turn the other cheek? Or is that his restless spirit tugging at the pit of your stomach when you watch the Spring Valley High video? I can’t be only one that felt a sudden urge to reach through my screen and destroy the deputy. My next few impulses happened in quick succession: pull the girl far far away, hug the other students, and then have a sit down with that anonymous bald Black administrator standing there watching it happen. Let’s call him Dean Meek.

The hardest part of the Emmett Till story for me is Mose Wright, Emmett's great uncle. Everybody else was playing their part accordingly – playful kids pushing boundaries, barbaric white terrorists, protected by a system of white oppressors. I struggle with that moment, at 2am in Money, Mississippi, when there’s a knock at the door, days after the whistling incident, when Mose Wright was coerced into letting those terrorists take Emmett out his house to “teach him a lesson”. He tried his best to negotiate, to beg and plead for mercy, he offered money. But in the end, he made the most difficult decision ever, to save the other 4 children in the house from the wrath of these terrorists, and let them take Emmett.

It’s unfair for me to plant my 2015 brain into Mose Wright’s 1955 head and say I wouldn’t never hand my boy over to no terrorists under no circumstance. The traumatic conditions that have breed the warrior out of the African in the US are beyond my imagination. I can barely tolerate seeing fictional images of our enslavement and lynchings. We probably literally could not imagine what they did to the warriors among us, to make examples of us, and to make sure they never procreate, teach, or inspire. After centuries of systematic suppression of our fight we should be in awe of the persisting desire for those of us that actively seek to connect with our culture and the ongoing resistance movements such as the actions against the gathering of sheriffs in Chicago last week. But we still gotta deal with Dean Meek.

If we are ever going to move forward we must deal with the fear. Dean Meek was paralyzed by it. He may have moved if it was his daughter, but that’s a different conversation about disconnection. Dean Meek’s inaction makes him complicit in terrorizing the entire classroom. His fear has been inherited and socialized. He may have been like the student who later admitted to be “scared for his own life”. He may have been thinking about losing the job that he relies on to feed his own children. Whatever the case, firing the deputy won’t absolve his responsibility to the children he was in charge of.

How often do adults hand our children over to the authorities to let them teach lessons of obedience? Is it unfair to say that applies to every adult that is not an active prison abolitionist? We want our children to feel safe and protected, we want them to rely on us for guidance, but how can they when we show them so much cowardice. We’re so afraid to challenge and so comforted by our conveniences. Says the angry blogger.

We owe our existence to our ancestors that chose survival. But they survived so that we can do better than survive. They were motivated by the hope that one day it’d be a little bit easier to fight back. It always perplexed me to read about plantations in the south and Caribbean where we outnumbered the terrorists by hundreds. It’s frustrating to think about how easily we could things around if we all just decided, in large enough numbers, to move at the same time towards the same goal. I love watching old documentaries like Eyes on the Prize and seeing all those brave Africans fighting for us, but then I think about how many more were sitting at home.

Fear is a monster. We feed it by saying things like “he’ll probably just get another job somewhere else”. We avoid it by saying things like “she probably deserved it”. Emmett deserves better from us. All of them do, that were sacrificed on our behalf. How could we expect them to rest in peace, if we don’t continue to fight against the forces that harmed them? Those strategies of revenge will always be tempered by our fear. It requires both actively resisting the persistent attacks coming at us, and healing the internal wounds caused by centuries of trauma. Fear is one of those wounds. Fear is healed by joining forces to support each other in our fight. Fear is healed by celebrating our family and community stories about those warriors in our lineage that continued to fight despite. And fear is healed by acknowledging it, and making deliberate decisions to move past it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Too many of us have lost our will. Too many don’t have the heart to do what our children need. But those that do. We need you, urgently.

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