(From Left to Right) Isaiah Lewis, Tami Rice, Travon Martin
Published 09/24/2019 | Reading Time 3 min 2 sec
Editorial | By Nehemiah D. Frank
Are black kids under attack in America? It certainly seems that way. Isaiah Lewis is another black kid in the self-proclaimed Land of Opportunity who didn’t get his chance to grow up and get things right. His black skin didn’t afford him the privilege of living without regrets.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 20% of high school students have been offered, sold, or given drugs, on school property, in the past year.
Between the academic and peer pressure, without trained counselors to intervene, Isaiah probably felt his only coping mechanism was drugs. He was scheduled to graduate on May 18, 2018, but his life was cut short because he was gunned down by a police officer who wasn’t trained in how to deal with a teenager who happened to be experiencing a psychological break from drugs he’d taken socially with a group of high school friends.
Many blame Isaiah, some even blame his parents, but I charge the Edmond Police Department and the Edmond School District for failing Isaiah Lewis, a kid who was once excited about graduating from high school and starting his life but now rest 6 feet underground.
The officers involved should have received more training on how to deal with patients having mental health breaks and learned to identify their own racial biases, and the school district should have provided counseling for their students.
Isaiah should be in college.
While Isaiah was unarmed, Jackson Morris, a white kid, was armed and even fired multiple shots at Edmond police officers. Similar to Isaiah, Jackson was experiencing a psychological break at the time of his encounter with the Edmond Police Department, yet Morris was arrested without being shot and even enjoyed the privilege of being released on bail. Jackson is white.
On Monday, September 23, 2019, the Oklahoma County District Attorney, David Prater, determined that the officers’ actions were, in his opinion, justified in shooting Isaiah — a 17-year-old black kid.
Interestingly, investigators say that they “still don’t know what caused Lewis’ strange behavior.”
Which begs the question: Was Isaiah’s crime merely displaying “strange behavior?” If so, why wasn’t Isaiah given the right to life, in a Republican state that prides itself of being pro-life? Why wasn’t Isaiah given the same privilege of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness like Jackson Morris?
The cycle of assault on our nation’s black kids continues.
Travon Martin was murdered while carrying a bag of skittles and tea. Tamir Rice, like many white kids across the US, innocently playing with his fake toy gun in a park, was murdered. Isaiah Lewis was just another ordinary American teenager who was a part of that normal 20-percent experiencing drugs.
All three black boys were shot by authority figures.
So, I ask the question again: Are black kids under attack?
Recently in Florida, two black 6-year-olds were arrested and charged with misdemeanors — as if they were old enough to think or comprehend the possible coming consequences of their actions critically. The action of the officer, who happens to be black, is absurd. Officer Dennis Turner has since been fired, but what about the children? What about the mental health of these two babies who at the time perceivably thought their lives were over and imagined they’d never see their parents again?
We need to do better and actually raise these kids and stop treating them as if they were adults. They are children! And yes, got dammit, 17-year-old Isaiah Lewis was a child; he was below the legal age of the majority. Isaiah wasn’t even old enough to vote.
As a teacher, I’m naturally inclined to bring to light merely what black kids need the most — love. Black kids need it in every form; they need positive academic outcome love; they need physical love in the to form of high-fives, pats on the back, dabs, fist bumps, and even hugs. Black kids need to be told that they are loved, and they need to hear that phrase ‘you are loved’ every damn day.
Lastly, they need to be told that it’s okay to love themselves because that shit is healthy. Black kids need to learn to value themselves, and the only way to achieve that is to teach them about self-love.
Society failed all of the children mentioned in this editorial, and we have to own that for eternity.
The question now is: What are we, as a society, going to do about eradicating the assault that black kids are subjugated to every damn day that they are breathing, living and experiencing America?
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder & editor in chief of The Black Wall Street Times. Frank is also a blogger for the Education Post network. He’s a graduate of Harold Washington College and Oklahoma State University. Frank is highly involved in community activism and is also a public school educator. In 2017, Frank was a Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Among his many accomplishments, Frank is a TED Talk Alum, and a board member at the Tulsa Press Club and Tulsa World.