We keep seeing the tragic results of the “fear of black men.”
It’s not a myth. It is a condition that many of us suffer from, but few of us will acknowledge.
This time, a 26-year-old security guard and churchgoing young man was killed by a Midlothian police officer that was responding to calls of a shooting in a Robbins bar, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office.
Jemel Roberson was the good guy — working as a bouncer — when gunfire broke out. Police were called. When they encountered Roberson outside the bar with a gun, where he had apprehended a suspect, a police officer fired his weapon, fatally shooting Roberson, authorities said.
“Fear” will likely be blamed.
To be accurate, they should call it the “fear of black men.”
And while the authorities will investigate the shooting and issue a report, this police-involved shooting will likely be summed up as a tragic mistake.
Too often, the police officer that fired the fatal shot will not stand trial, although there is some indication that “fear” will no longer be automatically accepted as a legitimate excuse for pulling the trigger.
The most recent — and perhaps the most important — indicator that things are changing is the guilty verdict handed down in the Jason Van Dyke murder trial.
The former Chicago Police officer was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Van Dyke’s lawyers tried to convince a Cook County jury that the police officer feared for his life when he shot the then-17-year-old 16 times.
Two months ago, a female Dallas police officer mistakenly entered the wrong apartment and fatally shot Botham Jean, the lawful resident of the apartment.
Jean, an immigrant from St. Lucia, was a resident assistant at a Christian liberal arts school.
The officer, Amber Guyger, said she saw a “large silhouette” inside the apartment and thought it was a burglar.
Guyger was charged with manslaughter and was fired.
Those are extreme examples.
But this “fear of black men” is like the irrational panic that sets in when an unleashed pit bull shows up.
Before you work up an outrage, I’m not comparing black men to pit bulls. I am comparing the palpable fear of pit bulls to the unreasonable fear some of us have when we encounter a black man.
If on the street, we clutch our cell phones and purses tighter. If we’re waiting for an elevator, we opt to catch the next one. If it is late at night, we quick step down the street and are on alert until the figure has disappeared.
Bigots will argue that this fear is reasonable.
After all, they say, the nightly news is filled with videos of black men engaged in criminal behavior.
But these same people never mention the white men who storm into nightclubs, schools and movie theaters and kill dozens of people.
Should we be on alert whenever a white man walks through the door?
I believe a police officer showing up at a chaotic scene where a white man has a gun would have at least hollered for him to put the gun down before opening fire.
But too often, black men are not given the benefit of the doubt.
The only redress for the unfortunate man’s family is the wrongful-death lawsuit filed afterward.
I am saddened that another family has suffered such a senseless loss. From all accounts, Roberson was a good person trying to do right by his family and his community.
But I am encouraged that everyday people care about what happened to him.
A GoFundMe page organized by Katie Fromm-Bogacki of Naperville for burial expenses raised $17,664 in 22 hours. So far, more than 496 people have contributed to the campaign.
The messages accompanying the donations are heartfelt:
“I could only donate $10. This man stopped a potential mass shooting and was killed for being armed and Black. My condolences to his family,” said Alexander Hannah.
“There have been plenty of mass shootings by white men and police always seem to manage to take them without firing a single shot. Yet the mere sight of a black man warrants shoot to kill,” wrote David.
“Senseless murder of men of color (by police or other) has to stop. I will not be a silent white woman waiting for change. We must all be the change,” wrote Jesse McClure.
Unfortunately, men like Roberson are often judged by the color of their skin.
This time that judgment was fatal.