There are many times I hear people, white and black, ask the question “Why do they run? If they were not doing anything wrong, they should not run.” Now that the race inequities conversation is on the table, hopefully, many more people now understand better why.

Blacks are killed if they run and killed if they stand still. Those who are still asking that question must not realize that the crime committed in the minds of many is that they are black. In order to not understand the answer to that question today, one must be living in a vacuum.

From the beginning of policing in our country, the police have never been assigned the task of protecting black people. The purpose has always been to protect white people and their property from black people. If you will listen closely to the conversation from the top, including the U.S. Attorney General William Barr, that is the basic narrative coming out of his mouth and the mouths of many of the leaders.

They skip the conversation about the lives cut short of all the black men and women killed while sitting in their cars, jogging down the road, selling loose cigarettes, sleeping in their beds or driving with their taillights out. Even a little black boy playing with his toy gun on a playground is not safe. The police can drive up shoot him multiple times without asking or answering questions. And you ask why do they run?

What is it that is brewing in a culture that would make a white woman feel safe enough to call the police and lie to them to get a black man lynched even today? What is it that is present in this American culture that would allow a white woman to tell the police that a 14-year-old child — black child — looked at her and whistled in order to get him killed?

Emmett Till’s eyes were gouged out, his head bashed, he was shot and then thrown into the river. Many years after he died, the white woman came forward and confessed that it was all a lie. Just as the woman in New York changed her story; the game seems to be the same.

Just as that white mother in South Carolina who drove her three children into the river and drowned them felt that all she had to do was call the police and tell them that a black man took them. The policemen immediately proceeded to put out an all points bulletin for a black man who fit the description of being black and guilty. Why they run? Are you still asking that question?

We do not have to always look to the east, west, north or any other place to find that those type incidents have happened in our neighborhood. Two lynchings on Broad Street were caused by the same kind of reporting. Even when the woman tried to retract her accusation, the men of the town refused to allow her to do so. They hurriedly went to the black man’s home, dragged him out and hung him on Broad. The report states that thousands of the city residents watched and cheered while having a picnic on the side.

(Note: The Rome News-Tribune reported on “A history of lynching in Floyd County” on Feb. 27 and 28, 2017.)

Historically, that is how it has been. And that type of poison culture has been handed down generation after generation in police forces. Many Southern police forces were created with the mindset that they must support the movements of the KKK. Many policemen were present when blacks were lynched and took part in the lynching.

That is why many people still believe that many of the policemen have just changed uniforms. They took off the white sheets and put on blue uniforms. With the badge and the uniform, they have more cover to hide behind when a criminal act is committed.

We see reports, and videos, of black males who take off running when approached by a policeman and get killed by being shot in the back. More black males have been killed by police while standing still and following orders than have been killed running away. And I still hear many people who have no other response to the killing of blacks by policemen ask the question, “Well, if he was not guilty why did he run?”

Stop what you are doing and follow some of the last 10 police killings that were recorded across the country. For every 10 recorded, more than double that number were not recorded.

One man was told to get his registration card. It was in his glove compartment. He told the policeman that he also had a gun. As he reached to get his papers, the policeman shot him in the chest and wrote up the report that the man was reaching for his gun. A witness in the car screamed out and told the officer that he told him to get the papers. He died and the witness, being black, was ignored — as well as the video recording.

Stop asking why they run. Do your homework and help pave the way to a better relationship to keep this from happening again. They run because they are not ready to die at the hands of an officer who is sworn to protect them.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome. She is the founder and director of the African American Connection of the Performing Arts Inc. and a 2020 Heart of the Community Award of Honor recipient.

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