This wonderful photograph of the Jackie Robinson West Little League team, out of uniform, is making its rounds on the Internet. Their smiling faces grace the pages of the December issue of Chicago Magazine, with the distinctive honor of being named “Chicagoans of the Year 2014”. Congratulations to them! These kids remind me of the young men in my life, the sons and grandsons I love with all my heart. And yet my soul is shaken and stirred as I gaze upon their beaming faces. The team is dressed casually; Their stance is confident. I see carefree boys instead of hoodlums, because I know how most young black men really are. They do not threaten me. But a society that doesn’t know or care about young black males, what do they think? Without “identifiers” such as uniforms, headlines and banners, what do they see?
The Jackie Robinson West teammates are growing up. In this country black male ‘tweens and teens are often labeled menaces to society. They are no longer considered children but potential threats. The justice system tries them as adults. Trigger happy cops shoot them first and ask questions later. Just ask Tamir Rice’s family. Without a caption, this winning team could be considered a bunch of poor black male juveniles at best and target practice at worst.
If you saw this group of black boys out of uniform walking down your street, what would you see?
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