By Jeremiah Carter
"And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." --John 11:44
On the numerous occasions I’ve heard those words spoken to funeral attendees, more times than not, my mind often goes on to the thinking of black men in America. "Loose him, and let him go." A powerful but vague statement. Of course specific to Lazarus, this was a loosening of the aforementioned grave clothes.
The questions remained. "How do we loose him?" "Loose him from what?" My problem then was moving beyond this vague, seemingly powerful declaration. Until now. Black bodies. Black male bodies. How are "free" un-incarcerated black male bodies physically bound and restricted in the larger context of society?
In the wake of the tragic killing of an African American teenager Mike Brown at the hands of a white police officer new question must be asked. Can black male bodies physically (with both hands in the air) surrender without the threat of death? Before the most recent cases of black male deaths at the hand of the police officers, black men typically knew the basics of their boundaries in confrontations with police. "Don't talk back (get smart or act like you know your rights)." “Don't reach for your wallet.” "Don't make any sudden movements (if any at all)."
Today that list has extended. "Don't run away from the danger like Trayvon Martin did." "Don't play with a toy like Ezell Ford." "Don't Breathe like Eric Garner." And "don't Surrender like Mike Brown."
Notebook on Mike Brown and Ferguson
Jeremiah Carter, who graduated from Hampton University in May, is now a graduate student in the literature program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He is a contributing writer at the Cultural Front.