Today we sit as a country divided on the question of, “Liberty and justice for all?” In the midst of the battle between two Americas, the voice of our youth gets muffled or ignored. What is a society if the next generation is not heard or empowered to lead?
As we talk about racial injustice, we must not talk in terms of theories or hypotheticals.
What some people see as just a news story is the nightmare that keeps our student awake at night.
Today you will read a story shared by our student Reagan Moore. Reagan is a senior at Western High School in Baltimore City and will be attending West Virginia University in the fall. She describes the responsibility of protecting her brother as a hopeless and fearful task. In her writing, she tells the story of a scenario that has proven to come true too many times in our country. For students like Reagan, police brutality and racial injustice is not only a story, it is how they see the world. We hope stories like hers will humanize the experience of many, and also encourage you to speak out and fight against racism and injustices happening in the world.
By: Reagan Moore
It started as an ordinary day for Jordan Peck. He woke up in his two-story home in a small suburban neighborhood in Georgia. He walked downstairs to see his mother, Grace, cooking him an egg and cheese omelette. He was a 17 years old African American boy, and next year he’d be attending John Hopkins University on a full ride scholarship.
“Good Morning Mom,” he said as he sat on the stool surrounding the island in the kitchen.
“Good Morning baby. How’d you sleep?” said Grace.
“I slept alright. Max kept me up most of the night because he was barking at the birds outside of my window again, and then he was having some bad dreams, so I ended up playing some 2k until he settled down.” Max was his 12 year old golden lab who slept in his room every night.
“I’ve told you that you can’t let that dog keep you up all night, but if he must stay in the room, then we should get him some sleeping pills for dogs. Maybe that’s absurd. We’ll talk to the vet about it. Anyways, what are your plans for the day?” Grace wondered.
“Well after I eat this delicious breakfast that you’ve made me, I think I’m going to go on a run in the neighborhood and then drop by the store to pick up some of those treats that Max likes.”
“You’re nearly a grown man, so I can’t tell you what you can and can’t do, but just be safe out there, and make sure you stay aware of your surroundings.” He had never truly walked around the neighborhood by himself before, and while she knew that he was a sweet and intelligent kid with a bright future, others might only see him as a young African American boy with dreads that go past his shoulders, and that’s what scared her the most. Jordan stared at his phone while his mom was talking, the anxiety in her voice not reaching him. Jordan had heard about the injustices going on in the world, Sandra Bland a name he remembered retweeting and being upset about. He even remembered wearing a black hoodie with Trayvon.
“Hello! Are you even listening to me?” His mom Grace said and finally when Jordan looked up he saw the bags under her eyes. He put his phone down and his eyes softened as he apologized to his mom.
“Yes mom I'm listening, but we live in the safest neighborhood ever, I’m alive aren’t I? I come home from school safe everyday” He laughed it off but Grace couldn’t find any humor in the conversation. Her son didn’t see the looks he got while walking the dog.
“Mom we live in a white suburban neighborhood in Easton, Georgia. How much safer could I possibly be?”
Jordan was confused about why his mother could possibly be worried for his safety because he felt their neighborhood was the safest place for him to be. However, Grace was scared because her son didn’t realize the true meaning of the word safe. While the crime rate inside of the neighborhood may be low, he never saw the stares he received from his neighbors, and he didn’t notice all the whispers about him when he simply walked Max up and down the road.
He suddenly realized that his father, Mark, hadn’t come out of their bedroom yet. “Where’s dad?”
“Your father is already off to work, but he’ll be back by dinner.”
He ran upstairs and put on his worn Nike running shoes and headed for the door. “Bye Mom! I’ll be back before lunch! I love you!”
Grace said she loved him back, but she couldn’t hide the wavering fear in her voice as he walked outside. He didn’t notice Grace staring out of the window watching him every day he left, he didn’t see her pray every morning for his safe return.
Jordan decided that it would be better if he just went and picked up the small bag of dog treats before he went on his run. He didn't want to go inside of the small pet shop around the corner all sweaty after his run, so he decided to take the short walk. As he began to walk down the road, he noticed that his neighbors were pulling their blinds up and curtains open to stare at him. He was confused because he didn't know if he did anything wrong. Little did he know that there was nothing that he had done except be a black man.
He walked for about 20 more minutes to get to the store, and he received more and more stares. It was honestly creeping him out a good bit, so he walked into the store really quickly.There was soft store music, and he walked around until he saw the bacon strips that Max loves so much. He then began to wander around a bit to see if there was anything else he wanted to pick up. He noticed the store clerk staring at him from behind the counter.
“If you don’t come up here and buy what’s in your hand right now then I’m going to have to call the police!” the store clerk said with so much hate in his tone. Jordan was honestly frightened.
He quickly went to the front of the store and paid for the dog treats because he didn’t want to cause any more trouble than the store manager believed he had caused. Jordan knew that he didn’t do anything and that it was racism that caused this sudden outburst. As the store clerk rang the purchase, he didn't say one word to Jordan except for the price of the item. He didn’t even mutter a simple goodbye.
Jordan began to jog back towards his neighborhood, but he didn’t notice the black truck that was now following closely behind him. After about ten minutes, he realized that the truck was following him, and he suddenly stopped. The truck stopped as well. He faced the truck and noticed two white men sitting in the front seat. One of them got out, and Jordan quickly asked, “Why are you following me?”
The man pulled a gun from his waistband and Jordan quickly dropped to his knees with his hands high. ‘What the hell are you doing in my neighborhood nigger?” The man who got out of the truck quickly asked.
Jordan quickly responded, “I live in this neighborhood! We just moved in! My address is 929 Woodbourne Circle.”
The man simply scoffed in disbelief. He told Jordan that the police were already on their way and that there was nothing he could do but sit there and wait.
Jordan was scared to death. He realized what his mother meant by the word safe. He realized that being safe didn’t have anything to do with the neighborhood he lived in, but it had everything to do with the color of his skin. Jordan wished he had spent a little more time listening to the words his mother was saying.
He couldn’t truly express how he was feeling with one simple word, but if he had to it would be mortified. He watched as the men became overcome with hatred towards him even though he had never met them in his life. This was because the men were blinded with racism. Jordan was no longer a human to them but rather roadkill they had stopped to hunt on the side of the road, and that is what hurt the most.
He wished he would have simply stayed home, but it was too late. Cars were driving by, and they didn’t even stop to see what was wrong or if he was okay. As he heard the sirens pull up behind him, he was hoping that he could explain to the cop what was going on before the situation escalated. He parked behind the men who had him on the ground.
“Good Morning Billy. Is this the boy the station was receiving all the complaints about?” the cop said to the man who was holding Jordan at gunpoint.
Billy responded, “This is him. He was running in this neighborhood, and I’m sure he was going to try and rob someone’s house. He was trying to steal from Tim down at the pet store.”
The officer walked over to Jordan and told him that he was under arrest for loitering and attempted robbery. Jordan began to plead “Officer please! There’s a big misunderstanding! I live in this neighborhood with my mom and dad! Please let me go!”
He wished he never would’ve done that because while he saw it as pleading, the police officer saw it as Jordan resisting arrest. He believed Jordan was becoming aggressive, so he quickly discharged his service pistol. Jordan continued to plead and cry and ask if he could call his mother.
“Officer please! We can clear this up! My father is an engineer, and my mother is at home right now! Ple-”
Jordan couldn’t even say please one more time. He was dead. He was gone. The officer shot at him three times, and Billy shot at him three more. They simultaneously murdered the future graduate of Johns Hopkins University. They murdered a son. They murdered a black man. They murdered an innocent person.
The officer looked at Billy and quickly told him to get in his truck and flee the scene to make it look like he killed him. They knew what they did was wrong, but there was no fixing it now. Jordan was dead. An African American man killed at the hands of white men. A fatal injustice. Perhaps you could even say it was a power trip gone wrong.
Grace began to grow worried because Jordan hadn’t come home, so she got inside of her car and began to ride around the neighborhood until she came up on the scene. She noticed her baby lying dead and cold in the street. She quickly got out of the car and ran towards the officer and fell to the floor crying. She began to yell “Who did this to my baby?” over and over again. The officer said nothing, and she already knew. “You murdered my baby. YOU MURDERED HIM!” Grace yelled.
The officer looked at her and said “One day you’ll understand how much of a hero I truly am. Your son was violent, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. He was just another black man blinded by violence and rage, and the sooner you realize that the better off you’ll be.”
Grace was shocked, but she knew this was a fight she couldn’t win, and it’s a fight she never would win. She sat next to her son’s dead body and wept as the officer called it in. She was heartbroken by the fact that her son would never receive the justice he deserved because even if he had no physical weapon, his skin color was all the officer needed to shoot him down in the street. It was hunting season, and her son was the prey even though he’ll always be seen as the predator to white America.