St. Louis Myers shooting

Protestors in St. Louis respond to police shooting of Vonderrick Myers, Jr. Credit: AP.

Two months ago, our Editor-in-Chief Brandon Caldwell penned more than a few thoughts about the belated Michael Brown and everything that had transpired in Ferguson, MO in the days following his death. Nearly two months later, I don’t quite fit the profile that our EIC eloquently articulated. I no longer feel “young, Black, and afraid”… but rather, young, Black, and Angry.

I started this piece a week after that one but set it aside. I saw hope in the unrest and resilience of the residents of St. Louis and Ferguson, Missouri.

And then last night happened.

As my Twitter timeline flooded with news of “fatal shooting in Ferguson,” I didn’t want to assume the worst. But I already saw the headline, already anticipated the story about a Black life taken with police presence involved.

Suddenly, I was introduced to and googling and retweeting any information related to Vonderrit Myers, Jr. Myers, an 18-year-old Black male, had been approached by an off-duty white male police officer (who remains unnamed at this time) who was at his second job as a security guard for a “pedestrian check”; Myers refused, fled down Shaw Boulevard and allegedly fired at the officer. The officer returned fire, and Myers was killed. Witnesses and protesters, however, tell a different story: Myers’ cousin, Teyonna Myers, insists that the only thing Myers had on his person at the time was “a sandwich that was mistaken for a gun,” and that the boy was fired at as many as sixteen times. The unrest and agitation thus now extends from Ferguson to greater St. Louis. And, just as in Ferguson, St. Louis police have rallied around their own in the way the Ferguson PD did around Darren Wilson: the officer who fired at Myers has been placed on administrative leave, absent of accountability.

Vonderrick Myers Jr

Vonderrit Myers, Jr., pictured with his mother. Credit: Instagram.

I’m asking myself when does it end. Or does it EVER end?

Forty years ago, James Baldwin wrote, “To be Black and conscious in America, is to be in a constant state of rage.”

For months now, Ferguson, Missouri, has served as a hotbed of this “rage” manifested. People have gathered and chanted “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and very peacefully agitated in night protests, the only provocation seeming to come from the St. Louis police officers who all but dare the protesters to react so they can react back. It’s admirable to witness the patience and dedication of protesters in Ferguson and St. Louis. But I guess I’m tired.

I’m tired of feeling powerless and like a threat in my own home country.

I’m tired of seeing Black boys – black people – die under the most questionable circumstances involving police officers and, when a community is finally fed up about it, they are told to “keep calm.” At what point, does keeping calm take a backseat to fighting back or defending oneself? If the perception is already that “Black people are a violent and angry bunch,” at what point do we stop worrying about proving them wrong in their assumptions and say, “Fuck it, I’ll show them how angry I can get?”

I’m tired of being told how to feel when something like this happens.

Because at what point do Black people get to show the emotion that we’re told not to have? At what point does the frustration that we’re told to keep inside and let fester, get a chance to release itself, not even in violence necessarily but in the angriest of shouts and most furious of tears? Never?

Black people deserve better. Young Black boys and Black girls deserve better.

From 2009 on, the names on the list of those young Black lives taken in unexplainable altercations – often, but not always, involving law enforcement – continued to grow. Some of them, we have covered on this site. Some of them may sound familiar to you. Oscar Grant. Trayvon Martin. Jonathan Ferrell. Aiyana Jones. Jordan Davis. Eric Garner. Renisha McBride. Ezell Ford. Michael Brown. And now Vonderrit Myers, Jr. These are just the names to make it into the national spotlight. The cases that local and national news find newsworthy enough. In your own community, just last week or even yesterday, the police were likely involved in an incident that resulted in the death or wrongful mistreatment of someone who just happened to be Black.

One day somebody is going to go off.

I am reminded of Christopher Dorner, the Black ex-police officer turned vigilante who just last year went on a kill spree of sorts by targeting members of the Los Angeles Police Department two years ago. Dorner allegedly went out in a blaze of glory after being cornered by police in a cabin in California, and allegedly took his own life at the end of it all. Prior to his “kill spree,” Dorner posted a manifesto on his facebook page. Though at times chilling, stop me if any of these things he’s said sound even a little familiar.

“… With the discovery and evidence available you will see the truth. Unfortunately, I will not be alive to see my name cleared. That’s what this is about, my name. A man is nothing without his name…”

“… You are saying to yourself that this is completely out of character of the man you knew… I know I will be vilified by the LAPD and the media. Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur…”

“… I’m not an aspiring rapper, I’m not a gang member, I’m not a dope dealer…  I am an American by choice, I am a son, I am a brother… who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered, and libeled me.”

“… Let the balance of loss of life take place. Sometimes a reset needs to occur.”

Dorner, mentally ill case that he was portrayed to be, at least made an effort to tell his side of the story before he died. For many of our young Black girls and boys, they don’t get that opportunity. I already anticipate Vonderrit Myers getting the same treatment in the media’s eyes as his predecessors, as people hunt for something, anything to diminish the young man’s credibility and suggest that something was off or “problematic” about him enough to set the officer off. Never mind that Myers may have had good grades, wasn’t involved in a gang, didn’t smoke weed. And even if he WERE a juvenile delinquent, that still doesn’t justify him being shot at sixteen times… essentially executed.

Troy Guillory - Tears of a Black Man

“Tears of a Black Man.” Painted by Troy Guillory.

I’m tired of this feeling.

I’m tired of taking the high road. I’m tired of this whole “post-racial” concoction that was supposed to make people feel better about the state of this country and yet Black lives are taken by those who swear to protect and serve every day. Who are they protecting and serving? Certainly not people who look like me.

Maybe, for once, Black folks need to be angry. We need to be ALLOWED to be angry. And I’m not saying everyone should go on a personal warpath for justice like Christopher Dorner did when “the rage” in him bubbled over. I’m not saying the “reset” has to happen or that even that will produce an adequate justice or “balance of loss.” I’m saying enough is enough, and Ferguson was merely the tipping point.

W.E.B. DuBois once posed the eternal question of double consciousness that the African-American in America often raises to self: “How does it feel to be a problem?” In 2014, even amid the powerlessness and the rage and the hopelessness, there lies something else. It’s not about being a “problem” to someone else. It’s about becoming the answer to ourselves, and doing whatever is necessary to be that.