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To be African American is to be appraised

By Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

It comes early in an African American life.

Before “Pomp and Circumstance” is played.

Before the corsage and the limousine ride.

Before final exam, favorite teacher and science project.

Before first kiss.

Before any of that, someone has appraised you — millions of someones who have never met nor even seen you. And they have decided yours is a life that matters less. The consequences of that decision, often made implicitly, below the level of conscious thought, can be brutal.

 

Which brings us to Jacob Blake. The 29-year-old African American father was shot in the back at close range Sunday by police in Kenosha, Wis., less than an hour south of Milwaukee. Witnesses say he had been breaking up an argument. A video taken from across the street shows him walking away, ignoring police who yell at him, guns drawn. As he tries to get into his parked SUV where three of his children are reportedly waiting, an officer grabs him by his tank top shirt. Blake opens the car door and seven shots are fired.

At this writing, he’s in a hospital, clinging to life.

America is a racist nation. This is a plain fact codified by history and statistics, by the fact that George Zimmerman walks free while a black man in Mississippi is doing 12 years for possession of a cellphone. Yet, as indisputable as that fact is, it is still reflexively disputed. Already, people are popping up on social media like weeds after the rain, claiming Jacob Blake caused his own shooting.

As if there is ever justification for shooting an unarmed man multiple times in the back.

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