old black men

The Most Precious and Irreplaceable Part of Our American History: Old Black Men and Their Wisdom of Truth & Accountability

Today, I had a very special conversation with my dad and asked him to share with me, as I have asked so many times in his 82-year journey as a black man on this planet, his thoughts on the ongoing oppressive relationship between primarily white male police officers and young black males across the nation. You see, my dad, just like many “old black men” in America, are the most precious and irreplaceable part of our American history that we will ever see. Their eyes have seen it all and when they die, there will be no more "truth-tellers." The type of magical national legacy Arlo Guthrie describes in his classic song, “City of New Orleans” when he sings,

Passing trains that have no names

Freight yards full of old black men

And the graveyards of rusted automobiles

Good morning America how are you?

Say don’t you know me, I’m your native son…

Towards the end of the song, Arlo sings the chorus,

Good night America how are you?

Say don’t you know me, I’m your native son…

My dad lived through the most damaging part of the Jim Crow south. As a boy he witnessed black men being hung, as white police officers smiled and laughed at their burned, mutilated, and castrated remains. This same dad later encouraged his three black sons to pursue careers in policing in order to become “mitigators of justice.” He encouraged me throughout my entire life to become an activist of social change within the criminal justice system and to never give up on "my black people."