Merecedes J. Williams says: Death should not be the consequence for being a Black man

Since Michael Rosfeld was found not guilty for the killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II on Friday, March 22, my immediate reaction was that the jury deliberation was too fast, the verdict was too swift, and the outrage was suppressed.

The wrong people were getting camera time, too.

On his 72nd birthday, jury foreman Jesse Rawls Sr., a Black man, decided to come forward and speak with local media about why the jury decided to render a not guilty verdict. It’s like throwing salt on an open wound.

“When I went in there, I had to be very open-minded. I had to hear the evidence, which we did. I think if you had an all-Black jury you would have come up with the same result,” Rawls said. “I don’t know what else to say, I know the people in Pittsburgh are very upset, but they have to understand that if he hadn’t been in a drive-by shooting and he hadn’t been in a car, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Sir, you should have remained anonymous and cut your Harrisburg birthday cake. Instead, you decided to spew the most illogical rhetoric to your decision, further victimizing Antwon Rose II and painting Rosfeld as a hero.

Another person who deserves the mute button is Rosfeld’s defense attorney, Patrick Thomassey. I don’t know if it’s his White privilege or simple lack of respect, but for a man who has reaped the benefits of the Black dollar, he should have thought about his press conference statements. He said that this case had “absolutely nothing to do with race.” Thomassey would be a fool to believe that. Let’s be clear—Michael Rosfeld would not have killed Antwon Rose II if he were White.

Rosfeld’s long history of abusing his badge to terrorize African American citizens is more than evidence that race plays a vital role. Just ask the University of Pittsburgh.

While some were talking too much, others weren’t saying anything at all.

Where’s the outrage from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the NAACP? Or from the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh? I am really concerned about how these deeply-rooted, historical organizations have been so quiet at this time. Everyone should be outraged, but some organizations are seeking shelter until the dust settles. That is bothersome.

More than anything, my heart aches for the family of Antwon Rose II. Watching his mother and sister enter that courtroom every day made me feel empty, helpless, and heartbroken.

To want justice for Antwon Rose II does not mean I am against law enforcement. It just means I recognize that in this case, the use of deadly force was tremendously abused.

The acquittal of Michael Rosfeld terrifies me, but the death of Antwon Rose II terrifies me more. Since June 19, 2018, the date that Antwon Rose II was shot and killed by Rosfeld, I have been both angry and afraid for the young Black men of Pittsburgh (and Allegheny County).

I have a 10-year-old son. He’s playful, rambunctious, and full of energy—the average boy. But through the eyes of law enforcement, the color of his skin deems him as violent, illicit, and felonious. The last time we were pulled over by the police, he literally said, “I thought we were going to die.”

That’s not a social norm. Death should not be the consequence for being a Black man.

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