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#3213: IF A COP KILLS MY SON (fwd)

From: Dotie Joseph <dotiej@hotmail.com>

>A Vow Born of Rage and Sorrow
>'It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void the law.'
>-Psalm 119:126
>I must have dozed off last Saturday with the radio set to 1010 WINS News.
>During my mid-day slumber, the gutsy street reporting of Lisa Evers,
>regarding the latest fatal shootings of young black men in Brooklyn, played
>out in my psyche in melodramatic bulletins. I remember hearing snippets of
>news about a robbery, toy guns that looked real, three suspects who got
>away, and soundbites from police brass calling the shootings of two
>allegedly armed teenagers by Operation Condor cops justifiable killings.
>In and out of my snooze, I thought the police version of what happened 
>only bolster Rudy Giuliani's contention that his private Ton Ton Macoutes
>are all that stand between law-abiding New Yorkers and violent young 
>American men. With the breaking news on my mind, I fell into a deep sleep
>and my worst nightmare. I dreamed I was in the office of Father Edward
>Durkin, the principal of the Catholic school my 13-year-old son, Peter Jr.,
>attends. I had come with tears welling in my eyes to tell Father Durkin 
>Little Peter, the taciturn, six-foot center on the school's basketball 
>was one of the stickup kids involved in the Brooklyn robbery.
>In my dream, Father Durkin put his arms around me and led this former altar
>boy in reciting the 14 Stations of the Cross. I woke up suddenly.
>Disoriented. Flailing my arms. Grasping. How could this happen? Little
>Peter, who wears a fake diamond stud earring in his left ear and is 
>a Kobe Bryant Afro, is not some street kid. Was he among the three suspects
>who got away? Had some trigger-happy cop shot and killed my boy? Why, in 
>name of the Father and of the Son, am I not on death row? My dream was
>In my family of West Indian immigrants, however, the women dream with
>horrifying accuracy. The night before an unarmed Patrick Dorismond was
>gunned down by an undercover cop, my mother left a message on my voice mail
>regarding my close relationship with Little Peter.
>"Boy," she sobbed, almost choking, "I keep getting these bad dreams about
>you and Little Peter. I keep seeing you and him struggling. He's pulling
>away from you, but you keep crying out, 'My son! My son! I can't let you
>go!' "
>Ma paused. But that only meant that she was perusing her blue, large-text
>Bible, the one that has the names of her six boys written all over her
>favorite chapters and stuffed in white prayer envelopes dipped in the
>special anointing oil some televangelist sold her.
>"Peter!" she bawled, as if she sensed I was on the other end silently
>listening to her. "Peter Noel! You don't listen! I am warning you not to
>leave your job today without saying the 119th Psalm. Don't tell me, 'Ma,
>it's too long!' Read it! Son, this is your protection! It will guard you 
>that beautiful, big-eye boy!"
>I read all 176 verses of the Psalm and called my mother. "You made a
>mistake, Ma," I said. "You always tell me to read the 70th Psalm. (The five
>verses of the 70th Psalm are short and to the point, but I always read the
>second verse: "Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul:
>let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.") 
>cut me off. She said she'd figured out the dream that kept haunting her in
>the wake of the uproar over the Amadou Diallo verdict and the subsequent
>police killing of Malcolm Ferguson.
>"Little Peter was trying to get away," she said. "He was frightened, and if
>he'd only run, if you'd only let go of him, the people-the big white people
>who was chasing him-would have caught him."
>I felt my mother was holding something back. "Did Peter die in this dream?"
>I asked.
>"It could be you. It could be him," she said. "Talk to Little Peter," she
>advised. "Tell him that Grandma Alice say, 'Never talk back to police! 
>fight! Don't struggle!' He's just like you, Peter Noel. He has your 
>I slumped back in my chair. I am afraid of my mother's dreams. In 1998, two
>days before my younger brother, Derrick, was fatally shot by a white cop in
>Montgomery County, Maryland, my mother had dreamed she was attending the
>wedding of one of her sons. "Marriage is death," she predicted. "This is 
>news for somebody in the family." On the night of March 30, my brother
>Seaver called. A cop had killed Derrick. Two bullets to the back of his
>head, allegedly during a struggle over the cop's gun. Derrick was unarmed.
>This reminiscence was broken when the phone rang. Ma again. This time she
>brought up the unpleasant subject of a spiritual struggle between Little
>Peter and me. In a West Indian ritual, when a "boy chile" is the "spitting
>image" of his father, the father must pay his son-put a dollar or more in
>his hand-or the son's spirit may wind up vanquishing the father's. "Pay the
>boy!" she demanded. "Ole people say that you killed your father because he
>never paid you. You look like him, walk like him, and talk like him-and
>you're just as pigheaded."
>Despite our strong resemblance, I don't believe Little Peter's spirit would
>kill mine so that he could live. If anything, I would be the one to give my
>life for him. I told Ma that the recent killings of young, unarmed black 
>by police have crept into her dreams and my own fears.
>"Peter might die before me," I said. "What if a cop killed him?"
>"What can you do?" she asked angrily.
>"Ma, you'd have to bury me," I replied.
>"Killing yourself is not the answer," she shot back.
>"It's homicide I'm talking about, Ma. The 'Vengeance of Moko' [a West 
>phrase meaning all-out revenge against your tormentor] will fall on him.
>I'll beg God to forgive me, and kill the cop who killed my son."
>"Did I kill anybody when Derrick died?" she asked. "Look at those African
>people [Amadou Diallo's parents]; are they talking about killing and 
>and shooting the police who killed their son? You're crazy if you start
>thinking like that."
>Maybe I had gone over the edge, I thought later. But it was a vow born of
>rage and sorrow. There are thousands of black fathers like me who are 
>the same thoughts and dreams-not from feelings of retribution, but out of a
>desperation born of the belief that justice for them and their sons is
>impossible in Rudy Giuliani's New York.
>William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs, the authors of the book Black Rage, 
>we can't be blamed for such "copicidal" fantasies. "Black people, to a
>degree that approaches paranoia, must be ever alert to danger from their
>white fellow citizens," they write. "It is a cultural phenomenon peculiar 
>black Americans. And it is a posture so close to paranoid thinking that the
>mental disorder into which black people most frequently fall is paranoid
>psychosis. Can we say that white men have driven black men mad?"
>On the afternoon of March 16, I learned that Patrick Dorismond, a Haitian
>American on his way home to Brooklyn from his job as a security guard in
>Manhattan, had been shot to death by an undercover narcotics officer after
>he quarreled and struggled with the cop. Dorismond, 26, had rebuffed the
>undercover, who tried to entrap him into telling him where to buy 
>Another young black man had died, and I lashed out in anger. It could have
>been Peter, I said on the several talk shows to which I subsequently was
>invited to comment about, as Grier and Cobbs put it, "the depth of the 
>for slain sons."
>Except for my mother, and Paula, Little Peter's Mom, I had never told 
>about the rage that I feel would overwhelm me if a cop unjustifiably
>murdered my son. But last Thursday, after a white man almost drove me mad,
>my secret got out.
>During a heated debate with New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy on The
>Alan Colmes Show on WEVD radio, Colmes questioned the decency of
>demonstrators at Patrick Dorismond's funeral who carried posters declaring:
>Colmes said the signs threatened the life of the mayor's 14-year-old son,
>Andrew. I responded, and, in the ensuing acrimonious exchange, bared a 
>father's pent-up rage.
>"I have a 13-year-old son, and any police officer who kills my son, he's
>dead! Period!" I bellowed. "I'm going after him! That's how I feel! I'm not
>waiting for this system to give up any justice. I am going after that 
>officer! . . . If a police officer kills my son in this city, I am not
>waiting for Rudy Giuliani to do anything. I'm going after that cop. I'm 
>as dead!"
>Dunleavy argued that I had created an implausible scenario-that he could 
>imagine my son being shot by a cop. But then he turned. "[L]et's talk about
>circumstances," he said. "You've come outright and [said] if any cop killed
>your son, the cop's dead. What would happen if that 15-year-old son of
>yours-which I'm sure would not happen-had a gun in his hand, was shooting 
>a cop?"
>"No! No! No!" I replied. "My son will not have a gun in his hand. I'm gonna
>tell you like it is. I raise my son with proper values, okay? My son is an
>endangered species when he walks outside. Your son is not an endangered
>species. . . if you have sons. . . . You don't understand the black
>experience in this city at all! Whenever my son or my daughter, who is 19
>years old, step out of their apartment in this city, I don't know if 
>gonna come back home because some police officer might mistake their cell
>phone, might mistake their wallet, or their set of keys, for a gun, and 
>shoot them down because he profiles them! You don't understand that
>experience, Steve, because you don't live it! You live in your own nice
>world where . . . you protect the status quo, protect people like Rudy
>Just as I felt Dunleavy might be sympathizing a bit with what I had to say,
>he began to question my standards. "You keep on talking about how you bring
>up your children with proper values, and they wouldn't have a gun in their
>hand, and I quite agree with you. I'm sure they wouldn't. . . . But if you
>say you bring your children up with proper values and you talk like this, I
>think you better readjust what you call values."
>I stuck to my declaration: "Any police officer [who] kills my son; I'm
>taking him out because I'm just as good as dead!"
>Colmes interjected: "But you're talking about taking justice in your own
>hands. . . . "
>"Yes!" I emphasized. "[The cop] took justice in [his] own hands. There has
>to be some kind of response, Alan. There are . . . grieving mothers and
>fathers. . . . I come from a totally different culture. My culture tells me
>'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' You kill my son and you want
>to say that he had some gun in his hand when he didn't have one! I am dead.
>You guys are gonna write my story for me. I am coming after that police
>Dunleavy invoked an argument popular with Giuliani conservatives and
>far-right talking heads. "I think you should take your activism down to
>Washington, where the Washington cops have a frightening record [of killing
>black men]," he said. (If Dunleavy was suggesting that I tolerated black
>cops killing black people, he was sadly mistaken.)
>"I [live] in New York," I reminded him. Dunleavy pressed the point, hinting
>that the civil libertarian's theory-that police brutality would be almost
>nonexistent if black cops patrolled mostly black neighborhoods-does not
>work. "It just so happens the majority of Washington cops are black. . . .
>," he said.
>But my beef is with Giuliani's terror squad. "Any cop in this city, black 
>white, who attacks and brutalizes people . . . should be punished. . . . ,"
>I said.
>"But you're talking about vigilante justice, Peter," said Colmes. "You're
>talking about going after them yourself." I wanted to make it clear that my
>fight with the cop who killed my son would be personal. If there were four
>cops, like in the case of Amadou Diallo, I'd go after them all-but I
>wouldn't be avenging every alleged police killing.
>"I'm speaking about me!" I explained. "I'm speaking about what would happen
>to me if a white police officer, a black police officer, a Latino police
>officer, kills my son. I'm gone. I'm dead!"
>The liberal Colmes attempted to link my views to those of some of the
>radical protesters at Patrick Dorismond's funeral who, according to Colmes,
>advocated killing Andrew Giuliani. " . . . I think a sign at this rally
>threatening Giuliani's son [was] way out of line," he declared. "It was
>really inappropriate."
>"There is something called righteous indignation," I asserted. "People are
>angry! The only thing that they have . . . is freedom of speech, regardless
>of whether . . . they are fighting words."
>Dunleavy interjected: "Is that what you call righteous indignation? You're
>talking about righteous indignation when you talk about killing the mayor's
>son? Are you out of your freaking mind?"
>" . . . The mayor has killed the sons and daughters of African Americans in
>this city," I retorted. "He has sanctioned it! And if people feel that they
>have to send a message back to him . . . let them do that." (In no way was 
>calling for the life of the Pharoah's first-born son.)
>"Oh, come on, for God's sake," Dunleavy fumed. "You better stop taking 
>stupid pills you've been taking."
>Pills? Much like the undercover cops who assumed Patrick Dorismond was a
>pothead, Steve Dunleavy was not above inferring that I might be a drug
>abuser who popped pills. News flash, Steve: I don't need pills. I get high
>on black rage, which makes African American fathers like me consider
>homicide when Giuliani justice is not enuf.
>Last month, on the second anniversary of my brother's death, Little Peter's
>mother summoned me to their home. I told Paula that if she was going to 
>to me about another one of her "Stephen King nightmares," I didn't want to
>hear it. "It's about Peter!" she snapped. "No dream could predict what I am
>about to do to your son." I raced over to the apartment. Little Peter, who
>is always at the door to greet me, remained in a back room. Paula was
>sitting on a chair in the kitchen gritting her teeth, trying to calm her
>erupting nerves.
>"His pants is hanging off his ass these days, and he's not listening to 
>she complained. "Take him!" she offered. "Because if the cops don't kill
>Peter for looking like a thug, I will." I called Little Peter from his
>hiding place, rapped him a couple of times in the back of his head ("Kid,
>what wuz you thinkin'?"), and thrust a $10 bill in his hand.
>"What's that for?" he asked, still wincing from the thumps.
>"This," I said, staring at Grandma Alice's beautiful big-eye boy, "ensures
>that both of us will live."

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