By Hollis Wormsby, Jr.
I have said repeatedly that I am not a supporter of the decision by some NFL players to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem as a form of protest against the unjust treatment of people of color in this country, and especially the unjust treatment of people of color by law enforcement officials across the nation.
I have also stated repeatedly that I think that the same people who rise up in outrage when there is a police shooting of a person of color need to show the same outrage when on almost a daily basis there is yet another example of loss of young black lives because of out of control black on black violence. Having said all that, the apparently senseless killing of Emantic F. Bradford Jr. and the way the City of Hoover has communicated with the public regarding the shooting, have made me say to myself, “this is why they kneel, and why maybe I might need to reevaluate my position on this issue.”
According to the version of the story that seems most advantageous to the City of Hoover and its police department, Bradford was shot, it seems immediately upon being encountered by a Hoover police officer as Bradford was running away from what has been described by both police officials and the media as an insanely chaotic scene.
In no version of the story have I have heard it said that the officer gave instructions for Bradford to drop the weapon. In no version have I heard it claimed that Bradford was engaged in the process of aiming his weapon towards the officer. The most believable version of the story, in my opinion, is simply an officer saw a black man with a weapon and opened fire with deadly consequence without asking a single question or making any effort to evaluate the situation.
I have seen some comments on various media outlets that have questioned why Bradford had his gun out in the first place. But there are also multiple witnesses that have claimed that Bradford was by no means the only patron to pull out his personal weapon in response to the chaos, he was just the only one to get shot.
I think the questions do need to be asked and answered, “would the same outcome have occurred if the policeman had encountered a white male with a gun and did Bradford’s race have any impact on the police officer’s response to the situation?” Unfortunately, I think the answers are no and yes.
The most important possible outcome of this case is for the community to have a discussion on how to change this dynamic. The police have a challenging, and in the times we live in, danger is a part of carrying out their duties. I don’t think a Hoover officer woke up with the desire to kill anyone, but that doesn’t mean that his actions do not need to be reviewed, and not only to bring justice to the family, but to have a conversation on what steps can be taken to prevent this from happening again.
Back in the good old days when I hosted a popular talk show, one of the things that stood out after events like this is for a week or two our phone lines would be lit up with concerned citizens wanting answers. But frequently by the third or fourth week, nobody outside of the immediate family can even remember the name of the victim.
What is needed is not momentary outrage. What is needed is a full and fair investigation with an emphasis on finding the truth as compared to finding whom to blame. And once the truth is known we need to begin a long-term conversation on how to use this tragedy to develop strategies to prevent this from happening again in the future. It isn’t right that the same law enforcement who had such empathy for a man who they knew had just senselessly killed nine black people as they worshipped in a Charleston, South Carolina church, cannot discern between a black citizen who is a threat, and a black citizen who is someone they have vowed to protect and serve. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 29 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM. If you would like to comment on this column you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.