Commentary: The license to kill with immunity

Henry J. Pankey

Commentary: The license to kill with immunity
July 04
02:00 2018

By Henry J. Pankey

“What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” – Barbara Streisand singing the song “The Way We Were”

The Tuskegee Institute documented 3,436 Blacks were lynched between 1882-1950. Perhaps, this represents a small percentage of murders due to racism and the fear to report these heinous crimes. Picnics, celebrations, dinners, music, dancing, laughing, mailed photographic post cards were part of this ritual of carnage. This led to the creation of the NAACP.

Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Stephon Clark and Tamir Rice are only a few names embossed on obituaries as the choirs sang “Precious Lord Take Hand,” “Amazing Grace” and “Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Savior.” Folks quietly walk behind shiny black luxury limousines during unforeseen family reunions. Rivers flowing from watery eyes are mirrors of broken hearts.

Tragically, an average of 10,000 Black men are killed each year. We have naively become numb and delusional with nervous self-imposed sighs of relief that Baltimore, New York, Baton Rouge, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jackson, Birmingham, New Orleans, Detroit. Newark, and Chicago, but not our town, are cities with the most annual deaths.   However, as old folks say, “What goes around comes around,” and “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Impromptu eulogies, long sermons, flowers, repasts, money in envelopes, prayers, sympathy cards and well-wishes are not able to bring solace.  Weeping out of control is catastrophic for a mother whose son is dressed in a black suit, white shirt, ebony neck tie with excessive make up. (He looks so peaceful and no longer has any pain or stress.) She wants her son to breathe again, smile, laugh and tell more silly jokes. Gosh, memories of his first heartbeat as an embryo during the gestation period flushes throughout her memory bank.

The parents of boys, brown, black and darker than blue have the piercing sensation of cinder blocks on their chests, shoulders and backs every time their sons leave home “breathing” with a swagger, hoodies and sense of invincibility. The nightly news, ringing of the phone or doorbell, stimulate a rapid heart beat until their baby walks through the door.  However, authentic experiences of Black parents include fear they have not instilled essential skills to keep their sons from being killed.

Despite irreputable evidence of innocence, our young men are too often shot in the back, heart or torso. Complaints are ridiculed, even with eye-witnesses and videotapes.

Social media, revisionist scholars, television, magazines, newspapers and commentaries make zealous efforts to rewrite, but can’t unwrite history.

Mirrors in our hearts include visually engraved images of our men and women lying on the ground in handcuffs, which remind us of slaves chained by the hands and feet. History is Black America’s current inseparable reality.

Emboldened men with an arrogant sense of superiority, erroneously believe a tweet, birth entitlement, war resolution and court rulings divinely entitle them to certify licenses to kill with immunity.

We shall overcome some day. What day?  Dead or alive?

James Bond had a license to kill, but that was in the movies. This is real life/death.  Next?  You?  Me?   Stop killing us.

Henry J. Pankey is an author and former Triad educator. You may contact him at, or (919)-225-8596.

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