On November 25th, 2018 Thanksgiving night, a young man named E.J. Bradford was murdered by a Hoover police officer in Birmingham, AL at the Galleria Mall. News reports, to include a press conference, immediately praised the officer, calling him a hero. There were a plethora of unanswered questions and missing information but somehow the only thing that seemed to be “clear” to the police at the time was that the officer was a hero. They were so convinced that no one thought it priority to notify the family of the slain 21yr old young man. The very next day, that same police office would issue a statement sighting that the wrong man was killed in a case of “mistaken identity”. As E.J. Bradford stood over his friend (who had been shot by another man) in shock, not knowing what to do or who to turn to, he was immediately executed by police officers when they arrived on the scene. It didn’t matter what type of person E.J. was, the facts of the confrontation that led up to this tragedy didn’t matter, without warning and without identifying themselves these officers saw a Black man, with a gun in his back pocket (in an open carry state), standing over another Black man and decided that he needed to die….not surrender, but die. That Black man, E.J. Bradford, was my nephew.
“TENNIS SHOES!” That was the first thing I yelled throughout my home when I initially heard that my nephew was killed in the mall. When I moved to Texas, E.J. called me about a pair of Air Jordan’s that were sold out in AL, I too was unsuccessful in helping him achieve his goal but that’s when he revealed his love…obsession (LOL) with shoes. We would later discover that his purpose for going to the mall that night was to get shoes. In the 3yrs I’ve been writing my blog, I’ve written about all types of fears. The fears I’ve listed thus far are all intangible, mental fears that seem to reveal themselves as situations arise. In the last few years it seems each time I turn on the news a Black family is in tears over the death of a loved one by those who swore to protect that life. As an African American woman, from the day I was conceived, there’s a very real, very present threat to my very existence. I was born into a world of hate and I don’t have the privilege of being ignorant to that reality. That reality has confronted me through the countless stories of others, but I never expected it to become my life.
I’ve been pondering my pain a lot lately. I’ve been wondering what remedy will pacify my soul and ease my sorrow. I can only speak for myself and say that there is no justice, short of bringing my nephew, Emantic, Jr., back to his original quality of life, that will satisfy. The tragedy of life is that I must accept the limitations of justice society is WILLING to offer us as African American minorities and then ultimately (expected to) forgive. Perhaps true strength is being willing to wait, past the limitations of our own patience, without taking matters into our own hands. I took my car to get serviced at the dealership, the day before driving home to Alabama for E.J.’s funeral and encountered a police officer getting his car serviced. Such an eerie feeling overtook my senses. I viewed him through the lens of my raw pain, “sinners dressed up like saints with badges when they are a protected class of savages,” spoke my anger to my heart. I’ve always been a forgiving person, but forgiving this sin just may take me an amount of time that fate may not agree with.
I’m in unchartered territory, I find myself weighing my seemingly spotless path on the high road against the dark side of my humanity. I am angry! I’m angry with law enforcement. I am angry with the justice system. I am angry over racism. I am angry with the media. I am angry with opportunists. I am angry with the officer that murdered my nephew. I am angry with the city of Birmingham. I am angry with this country. I am angry with God. The only emotion that currently supersedes my anger, is my pain. Our mangled bodies are once again put on display for America’s amusement. Another Black man/woman/child murdered by the hands of police, plastered over the world news. This is not what fame or notoriety looks like to us. Our family didn’t choose this, our family didn’t want this.
Our families have spent multiple generations serving in the military and in other capacities of law enforcement. WE are one of this country’s own as well. WE are Black…yes! We are also Blue & have fought for the red, white & blue. What color is OUR justice? What does she look like? SHOW ME HER FACE?! How many colors of the rainbow do we have to become before we qualify as deserving of her earthly grace? African Americans have been categorically slaughtered in this country, since its establishment. The laws of the U.S. Constitution were not designed with minorities in mind as a protected class. White America relied on time to right their wrongs, hoping we’d accept amendments (with expiration dates) to the laws in place of abolishment, but if the laws (referring to African Americans as property) remain this country can always revert to them. How many more amendments must be made to the constitution before it becomes a document of amendments? It’s time for a system redesign, this time with equal representation and protections to include all Peoples.
Over time, I fully expect my prayer life will serve as the filtration system to purge my anger, whenever I feel comfortable praying again. I am not (yet) in the mindset to receive wisdom wrapped in religious clichés, profound epiphanies, pointed Bible verses or philosophical messages of inspiration, but I’m not lost. Logically, I’m aware that the same God that knew this tragedy was coming, the same God that watched this happen, the same God that mourned this tragedy is also the only One capable of administering true justice. I find myself stuck, in what I can only describe as a spiritual labyrinth. I love my family; my pain resonates through my Brother’s heartache like a record on eternal repeat. I feel betrayed by God, I pray(ed) for protection over my family, friends and loved ones everyday…we were supposed to be outraged at what’s happening in the world but immune to its hatefulness. I have not abandoned my God or my faith, though I am understandably struggling with how my nephew’s murder has left me feeling. I feel unprotected.