A numbness has washed over many African-Americans who have become desensitized to seeing the lives of Black men being cut short as a result of police violence. We continue to speak the names of victims on a long list that continues to grow. Jacob Blake, 29, of Kenosha, Wisconsin is the latest Black man to be added to the list. But in all cases where violence is inflicted on a single individual, the families and the community connected to the victim are also affected as a result of gun violence initiated at the hands of the state. In this case, it is Blake’s three male children, ages 3, 5, and 8, who were directly impacted as they watched their father receive seven bullets to the back at close range on August 23 by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the force. The trauma experienced by Blake’s children, while sudden, will not dissipate as quickly, and will most likely require years of therapy. It’s another example of how police violence spares no one in its path.
The Reckoning spoke with two sets of Atlanta Black gay dads who are raising Black boys to discuss how Blake’s shooting has impacted the conversations they’re having as a family about police brutality, social unrest, and surviving in America when the color of your skin is perceived as a deadly weapon. Atlanta married couple Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman, who are raising a teenage son, tells The Reckoning that seeing the video of Blake’s shooting is a reminder that as parents they “could be in those shoes someday.”
“We have had “the talk” from an early age about what he is, and what that means to others who don’t look like him. At kitchen tables, night-time conversations in our bedroom, during drives to school, and in parting words, we share an unfortunate version of the same lessons given to young Black men for generations: "If you are stopped by a cop, do what he says, even if he's harassing you, even if you didn't do anything wrong. Let him arrest you. Keep your hands where he can see them. Do not reach for your wallet. Do not grab your phone. Do not raise your voice. Do not talk back,” said Innis-Stroman.
It’s a survival tactic that Black parents have instilled in their children for generations, but one that doesn’t always guarantee their safety. It’s a lesson that Atlanta married couple Jason and Anthony Henderson-Strong, fathers to three children, tell The Reckoning their parents also passed down to them.
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