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Fear Of The Law

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The gunshot that resulted in the death of Kenneth Walker resonated in homes
across the Valley.

The incident is not unique to our community. Black parents across the
country live with the indelible fear their sons will perish in the midst of
some bizarre encounter with law enforcement.

Walker, 39, was among three other men riding inside a gray GMC Yukon when
it was stopped Wednesday night as part of a drug investigation. The unarmed
man was fatally shot by a Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputy after
authorities said Walker failed to comply with the deputy's commands to
reveal his hands. The three friends were not arrested and were later
released. Authorities later learned there was no information that Walker
was involved in any kind of criminal activity.

In some communities, black teens are told to never run down the street
because their parents fear the teens may be shot by some police officer who
may mistake them for criminals.

A local high school teacher said some of the black students in her classes
are extremely upset.

"Are we safe?" one student asked.

"If there wasn't any proof, and there wasn't any reason, can this happen to
someone in my family?" another asked.

Scores of students bought newspapers and brought them to school Friday, the
teacher said.

"They are nervous. And next week is test week. We have got to do something
for them."

The sad thing is the teacher -- who is white -- says she can't blame the
students for being ill at ease. But she is asking them to "trust the law."

Why should they trust the law?

"Because at this point, there is really nothing else we can do," she said.

That may be true, but black parents try to short-circuit such events with
"the talk." Black boys are advised by their fathers, uncles and other
elders. The gist of it is "Don't give law enforcement an excuse to kill you."

Our sons are 6 feet 5 inches tall and 6 feet 3 inches tall, so my husband's
constant warnings are: "If you're stopped, comply. It doesn't matter that
you haven't done anything. Don't argue with a person who has a gun. You are
big. You are black. You are a threat. And if something happens, you will
probably end up dead."

And there are plenty of real life examples to bear that out.

Authorities said Walker and three other men were allegedly seen leaving an
apartment complex that was under surveillance for drug activity.

Variations of this story are all too familiar around the country, with
shootings in cities such as New York and Cincinnati. But this time the news
hit hard because it hit at home.

So whether the official story is found to be the whole story or not,
serious wounds have been inflicted.

When reports of an unarmed Walker being fatally shot circulated, blacks may
have been shocked, but they were not surprised. Law enforcement has never
been viewed as user-friendly in the black community.

Pubdate: Sat, 13 Dec 2003
Source: Ledger-Enquirer (GA)
Copyright: 2003 Ledger-Enquirer
Contact: letters@ledger-enquirer.com
Website: Southeast Breaking News, Sports & Crime | Columbus Ledger-Enquirer