Parents fight to find peace following the death of their sons.
|Thanksgiving is the time for family gatherings. A time for quiet reflection on the things we are thankful for receiving. This year, my wife Sylvia and I are still in mourning for the loss of our 2 sons. The youngest, Aaron aka Bruiser, died 5 years ago in 2008.
The night of the shooting, Bruiser was accused of street brawling with his buddies. A police officer, whose sole job is to protect and serve with integrity, approached our son. A scuffle followed and then shots rang out.
Nobody could explain to us why a white city police officer fired 12 rounds into Bruiser’s body. 12 bullets can do massive damage to a 13 year old body, even if that body is 6’4” and 300 pounds. Bruiser had only his fists to protect him. Flesh and blood cannot defend a bullet. Why did that officer fail to protect our son?
Bruiser was aspiring to be a pro linebacker and his high school coach claimed he was on his way to a great future. Had he survived the shooting he would celebrate his 18th birthday this year. Instead we buried Bruiser’s bullet-riddled body.
Bruiser’s death made the local news and in the Black neighborhood, word spread quickly. Hundreds of people, mostly young, spilled out into the streets angry after hearing about another racist killing.
The militant among the group, smashed windows and looted stores, all in the name of defending Bruiser. There was no honor in that group. They were users, using Bruiser’s death as an excuse for carnage and personal gain.
A grand jury panel formed to review the evidence and determine if the police officer should stand trial. After days of deliberation, they made their decision. They decided Bruiser was just a statistic, another young black man killed in a white man’s line of duty.
The day of the that verdict, we lost our eldest son, George. George was arrested for arson. The police say George was one of those responsible for burning down half the town. George stood mute as a judge killed his future, sending him to serve time in a Federal prison.
The evening of the verdict, Sylvia and I made a list. Our anger was not directed at the local merchants or individual policemen. Our anger was directed at all the elected officials involved in our son’s murder. The judge, the prosecutor, the police chief, the mayor, and the governor topped the list. The governor made the list for not breaking the chains of institutional racism running throughout the state.
For the past 5 years, Sylvia and I campaigned hard against these individuals. Going door-to-door with Bruiser’s photo and reminding the voters how easily it could happen to their family. Each victory tasted a little sweeter than the preceding victory.
This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the groundswell of voters determined to expose the system of corruption that nurtured the unanswered deaths of innocent young black men. On November 4th, we crossed off the last name on our list.
We are thankful for peace of mind.