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Black Boys and Toy Guns are a Deadly Combination

Published by Capital City Hues - April 15, 2024

In Ohio, the unbelievable happened again — unbelievable on several levels.

Yet another Black mother is making a public plea in the name of her son who has been victimized by the police. The family, although traumatized, was extremely lucky because the teen survived to tell his story. Unbelievable.

Tavion Koonce-Williams, a 15-year-old teen, was shot in the hand as he obeyed a cop’s instructions. The Akron cop, Ryan Westlake, responded to a call of a man brandishing a weapon and pointing it at houses. We can hear young Tavion shouting to police that it was a fake gun and that he was carrying it to protect himself.

A decade ago, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing in a park with a toy gun. He never got a chance to raise his hands. The Cleveland cop who responded to the park killed Tamir in two seconds. Literally. It seems Black males get a bullet no matter what the circumstances are or how well they follow orders.

This is the current reality and not to give Black boys the proper orientation of how to navigate life in America is having deadly consequences. It doesn’t have to stay the reality. These are preventable deaths. I have a couple of preventive and intervention actions.

Tamir’s tragic case should have been a teachable moment for all African American parents and guardians of Black males. Under no circumstances should a Black child be outside of the house with a toy gun. Sadly, we must tell our children that they don’t get the same rights and privileges as white kids. They can’t play outside with anything that remotely resembles a weapon. Period.

Communities should push for aggressive policies that rid police departments of cops “with a pattern and history” of department violations. Cities must be empowered to “terminate officers not fit to be in the department.” Westlake had such a troubled history and had such policies been in place, he would not have been on the Akron police force on that fateful April Fool’s Day.

Our communities have to articulate a collective re-envisioning of public safety and work towards a long-term plan to achieve it. Every incident that involves people of color should not trigger a police call (pun on words intended). It is important that our children see us working together to ensure their safety and security. I believe this is the responsibility of an entire community, not just individual parents.

Civilians certainly have a role to play but those who are authorized to carry guns and take lives have greater accountability. Police departments in this country have shown us that they are incapable of self-correction and self-discipline. The ability and authority to hold these departments accountable rests with the citizens who pay the salaries.

The protest slogan “Enough is enough!” applies to the systems that justify continued corruption. The slogan will remain empty as long as communities think they have no power. Repeating it and other pleas like “it has to stop” does not have magical power. We have to seriously hold police departments and our elected officials accountable — in spite of our intense grief and bitter frustration.

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