It boggles my super sensitive mind that discussions about last week’s MolsonCoors (formerly MillerCoors, and before that, Miller Brewing Company) murderous melee have deteriorated into conflicting opinions over the two extremes: racial retaliation versus mental illness.
Hours before this publication was going to press, a 51-year-old African American employee of MolsonCoors entered the west side brewing facility armed with two guns.
Minutes later, he had killed five co-workers and himself.
Law enforcement officials are still seeking a motive, and they are joined by community leaders in praying the killer’s actions were not racially motivated.
Such a dubious discovery would not only further damage the city’s image on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, but also set race relations back even further than they are now.
Conversely, most folks I’ve talked to find it hard to believe that any brother would commit an act of premeditated murder on that scale because someone uttered a racial epithet or there was the existence of a hostile atmosphere.
I may be making a bold generalization here, but there have been 1,000 workforce shootings since 2016 in America, according to the Brady Milwaukee Program, with few Black folks initiating any of them.
It’s not in our nature. If anything, we’re the most forgiving, compassionate, and culturally conditioned ethnicity in this country.
Older African Americans are either faithful Christians, grown immune to the insults and profiling, or afraid of getting caught up in the criminal ‘Injustice’ system to engage in an incident that would only lead to our deaths.
That’s not to imply we’re cowards or, in many cases, are at the breaking point.
We have tolerated more American Horror Story type racism than any ethnic group, with the definite exception of Native American.
However, we turned our swords (maybe that should be spears) into plow shares long ago. Of course, you can strike a mighty blow with a plow, but we’ve also learned it is more beneficial to cultivate than to destroy.
Many of us have chosen to stand on moral high ground, trying to find comfort in the knowledge that heaven is not going to be a crowded venue.
Few of us allow ourselves to be taken over by someone’s evil intent, or are ready to become martyrs.
In other words, the perpetrator of the second mass murder in Milwaukee in recent years was not a reincarnation of Nat Turner. Nor was he striking a blow against apartheid or acting to commemorate last week’s passage of a new federal anti-lynching bill (which was necessitated by American apartheid and race hatred).
And for that theory, White America should wake up every morning thanking God Almighty.
Because believe me, just about every brother I know has thought about lashing out—but not murdering—someone who has disparaged or harmed them (us) because of the color of our skin.
White America should feel blessed we don’t hold grudges; that we’ve taken to heart the concept of ‘walking meditation,’ and are ‘New Testament Christians,’ willing and able to turn the other cheek; to combat hatred—and prejudice—with love or, at least, moral righteousness.
There have been dozens of times that I have encountered racism or its stepchild–racial profiling–and came very close to responding to hate with hate.
One of my earliest racial realities occurred when I was a young teen participating in Milwaukee’s open housing marches.
I still recall the anger that swelled up in me as I stood before a crowd of southside bigots who carried signs telling the “niggers to stay on ‘your’ side of town,” or for the “Coons to go back to Africa.”
I carry a scar from an object that bounced off my head; thrown, I believe, by a young pre-teen White kid, who is today an adult.
Only the Commandoes—members of the NAACP Youth Council—who were charged with maintaining order prevented us from ‘fighting fire with fire.’
Several years later, I found myself caught up in peaceful demonstration in Norfolk, VA, during which police dogs were prodded into attacking children, as the ‘peace officers’ bloodied their billy clubs pummeling innocent Black adults.
Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and defending the defenseless is the second. Had I a weapon, chances are I would have ended up an obit in this paper, instead of an angry and disillusioned 17-year-old military man.
I was in uniform during the melee, which may have saved me that day. But I learned over the next few months that my uniform wasn’t a slave pass, as I was wearing it two months later when a buddy and I were refused admission into a Jacksonville, Fl public roller rink.
Imagine, if you can, being in the wartime military, ready to give up your life for ‘your’ country, but being told you couldn’t enter a public rink because it was reserved for Whites only!
The hypocrisy and insult were enough to spark a match and light a ‘Molotov Cocktail’ had I allowed my emotions to take over. Fortunately, the other brother was from Birmingham and explained the facts of life to me.
But he wasn’t around two years later when I found myself forced to stay in a base camp in the southern part of Vietnam where Confederate flags were prominently displayed. Coincidence?
I was providing escort duty for an officer. While there was a disproportionate percentage of brothers sent to ‘Nam, none were at this particular base camp.
The icy stares of my hostile and obviously racist military brethren forced me into isolation.
And, as I explained to Veteran Administration counselors many years ago, it was one of the worst weeks of my tour in the ‘Nam.
I literally slept with a .45, believing the real enemy wasn’t across the river we were guarding, but standing next to me with evil intent.
Call it fate or divine intervention, but running into a Milwaukee brother, Terry Cunningham, may have saved someone’s life.
As it turned out, I spent most of my time with him at a nearby base.
If there was to be an organized explosion to redress racism in America, I believe it would have been led by Black veterans who returned home only to discover we were still second-class citizens.
Most of us were not followers of Martin Luther King and instead subscribed to the nationalistic philosophy of Malcolm X. We wanted our freedom now, and many were willing to obtain it ‘by any means necessary,’ utilizing the skills provided to us compliments of Uncle Sam.
We were also less willing to accept the mistreatment, the discrimination, and the insults our parents had to endure. We were ready to take on the establishment.
But the revolution never took place.
Instead, we grew old, forced to navigate around injustice, or trying to legalize our claims for full citizenship in the courts. All the while biting our lips instead of lashing out.
But, as a Black leader once said, it’s hard not to lose control if you’re a Black man in America.
Every day your manhood is challenged, your tolerance stretched like a new rubber band, and energy drained as you try to maintain your calm amid constant bombardment from the left, right, and center.
Most of us try to stand behind the shield of our faith, taking to heart scripture, declaring the meek will be rewarded for our self-control…that we shall inherit the earth. We have been taught to be Christ-like, even when in the lion’s den.
That’s not to say we won’t defend ourselves. But that’s an option that doesn’t include mass murder.
Fortunately, Blackness and coolness are synonymous.
Although I’ve been ‘reborn’ two or three times, there are occasions when the Old Testament side of me resurfaces.
There was a time when my late son and I challenged a half dozen rural bigots when we made the mistake of staying overnight after my son’s basketball game in upper Wisconsin.
Another incident took place when I was profiled while driving home by a young cop who thought he was John Wayne…or, Donald Trump’s illegitimate son.
The hostile ‘peace officer’ and I almost had a showdown on King Drive at 3 a.m. because he wanted to assert himself as superior, or merely keep the darkies in their place.
I was a half-second away from doing something that would have altered my life.
I’ve been followed in department stores, in suburbia, and even at a large suburban church. They say 11 a.m. to noon on Sundays is the most segregated hour in America. I know that to be true, just as I assume heaven is not going to be a crowded place.
Like most African Americans, I can’t remember an extended time when I wasn’t reminded I’m Black, fighting racism, injustice, and stupidity masked as prejudice.
Most White Americans can’t comprehend what Black people continue to go through in this country, and how that misconduct has escalated in the last three years.
They will never know how painful it is for Black men to be forced to teach our children survival skills because they were blessed with being Black.
They can’t comprehend why fear takes over when we see a flashing light behind us, or even stop at a gas station in most rural parts of the state.
I’ve prepared my sons to defend themselves. Each of them has spent years in martial arts training. I also taught them how to use weapons. But I stressed never to use a weapon unless it’s self-defense or to save a victim.
I’ve taught them to weigh each decision because the system is not set up to benefit people of color.
It’s that moment’s decision, that instantaneous response that will get you in serious trouble…if not dead!
Think about this sad reality: It’s 2020, and Black parents are still forced to provide our children–particularly our sons–with directions on how to navigate racism and prejudice…how to survive.
And I teach them that prejudice is often just as insidious as blatant acts of racism.
I vividly recall leaving the Channel 4 television station after recording the Sunday Insight program a few years ago. I was adorned in a tailored suit, my short Afro perfectly trimmed and my shoes shinning enough to blind you
I was walking across the parking lot at the Bay Shore Mall when I noticed two elderly White women walking toward me. When they got within 12 feet, they looked at me, one grabbed her purse, and they jointly walked around me, fear written across their faces.
That incident was as painful as the 10-year-old-bigot-in-training who threw the bottle at me 40 years earlier.
Yes, indeed, America is lucky. The majority should be jumping for joy that Black America doesn’t respond the same way we’ve been treated for three centuries.
Fortunately, when we do respond, it’s instantaneous. It’s not premeditated.
That’s why we were shocked to learn the killer at Miller was an African American.
We may never know for sure what the killer’s motivation was. But it’s hard for most of us to believe that anything less than physical harm or threats caused him to act the way he did.
As I once noted, Black people generally implode, while Whites explode.
We’ll generally take out our frustrations and anxieties on our neighbors and family, those next to us.
That’s equally wrong and brings about its own ramifications. But it’s also a reality that should taint these ongoing theories and assumptions.