March 19, 2015

Dear Martese Johnson, Honor Students and Fake IDs

My heart ached upon hearing of the brutal beating of a young African American college student.  This morning my youngest son suddenly entered my room and a photo of a bruised, bloodied Martese Johnson being arrested flashed on the tv screen. 


"Mommy, what happened?  Is he dead?" asked my son.

"No", I replied racing to find the remote as if my child hadn't seen what he just saw.  "Mr. Johnson received ten stitches" the news reporter continued...
"Mommy, what happened" my son asked again clearly shocked.

"I don't know baby" I responded.  

Our silence only broken by the cell phone alarm signaling it was time to begin our morning commute.

I was still trying to grasp what happened to Martese.  News of his arrest lit up social media like a wildfire that St. Patrick's eve.  Tweets racing up and down my timeline.  Videos of Alcohol Beverage Control officers savagely pounding Martese's face to the ground over and over as he screamed in disbelief "What the..."  Pictures of a stitched up booking photo of Martese Johnson juxtaposed alongside photos of a studious, refined Martese on every channel.   
The story as I understand is Martese, a 20-year old student at the University of Virginia, was celebrating St. Patrick's Day with some friends a local pub.  Johnson allegedly had a fake ID and was being arrested by an officer with the Alcohol and Beverage Control.  During the arrest, Johnson became agitated and other officers were called in to assist.  In their efforts to subdue the inebriated Johnson, the officers force him to the ground and Johnson sustained several cuts to his face.

I remember being 20.  
I remember being 20 in college.
I remember being 20 in college with a fake ID.

I never remember seeing anyone being arrested for having a fake ID.  Yes, he broke the law by being in possession of a fake ID and entering a bar but was his punishment worthy of the crime.  It's been a while since I used a fake ID but I clearly remember if you were caught - and that was part of the thrill - at worst the bartender confiscated the fake ID and some burly bouncer put you out the bar.  That was it.  No cops. No arrests.  No blood.  Please understand I am by no means advocating the use of a fake ID.  However, I'm unable to find any justification for the arresting officers handling of the situation.  

We have got to stop fearing young African American males.  Yeah, I said it.  Let's be real here the young man was a Black man and regardless of his academic achievements and assimilation into college life...he was Black.

Ironic isn't it, the same society on fleek, "turnt up" and "tossing up" to the obscenity-laced lyrics of multi-millionaire rappers draped with jewels, pants dropped below their waists is the same society fearing young, African American males simply because they are young, African American males.  Oh yeah, it's okay *in my Suburban Mom voice* as long its on our TV screen, in a video or bumping in our SUVs once we've dropped the kids off at school but in our face, in our neighborhood, in the establishments we frequent, Heaven forbid.  

My reality is this -->The mommy in me realized years ago there will come a day when my precious sons will not be seen as the gentlemen I'm raising them to be but feared for no other reason than the color of their skin.  

Martese Johnson I am so sorry this happened to you. I am raising my sons to succeed academically so they too may attend the college of their choice.  Hoping they, like you, will actively engage in the college experience and enjoy it to the fullest.  Fake IDs at 20 and all.  

Martese, you are in my thoughts and prayers.


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