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Ex-U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr.: ‘This Is Not the Day or Time to Be Quiet’ After the Death of George Floyd

The author was U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2004. He is currently a partner at the firm, Barnes & Thornburg LLP.

By Roscoe C. Howard Jr.

Roscoe Howard Jr.

When I was growing up in ‘50’s and early 60’s, I visited my Mother’s home town in the Northern Neck of Virginia, and sat around while the adults discussed other family members and indulged in shell and fish foods that came from the nearby Rappahannock River.

As a child it would shock me to learn that African Americans from the area had been lynched in recent times. It was hard for me to even comprehend a violent death, but it was just as hard to understand how calmly it would be discussed by relatives and neighbors in that small Virginia town. My extended family seemed to be numb to the fact that such a murder was common place. I, on the other hand, thought I would never recover from hearing the stories.

Now, I don’t have to hear the stories because I read them. I think I would be derelict to not discuss the tragic event in Minneapolis, where forty six year old African American was pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer who put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck in an effort to detain him.

George Floyd.

Despite audible pleas, the officer did not relent, choked him and directly caused Mr. Floyd’s death. At my age I am becoming numb to news of African American joggers killed in Brusnwick, Georgia, to a young African American man being shot during a police encounter outside of St. Louis, to the countless other senseless killings of young African American men when confronted by white law enforcement officers or those who think that they are.

It is not an apology or money that any parent, friend or concerned citizen of these victims want. What we all want is for it to stop. I feel like my relatives on those summer evenings in Northern Neck of Virginia where I was so many years ago – I am numb. But, I am the father of two young African American men, so I feel compelled to bring this to our collective attention.

Silence No Longer 

This is not the day or time to be quiet. I would ask of all of us to have the courage and conviction to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I ask you not to countenance this outrage when it is senselessly defended by those who believe these young men bring this kind of abuse and death on themselves. I ask that you help make sure that no other African American mother outlives her son because of this sort of unjustified violence visited upon him.

I ask that in any way you can try to be that voice. In any way you can help the moral arc of the universe, although long, bend toward justice. In any way you can help a man like me recover from the nightmares of the stories I heard all those many summers ago.


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