Graphic warning: Video depicts a fatal confrontation with police. Greensboro Police Department body-worn camera footage of Anton Black's arrest and subsequent cardiac arrest. Video courtesy of Greensboro PD
To answer the question raised by a recent letter to the editor, there may be several reasons why Anton Black didn't "surrender” to police ("Why didn’t Anton Black surrender?” Jan. 31). First, he wasn't guilty of any crime. Second, the body camera wasn't activated immediately, so we don't know what was said to the young man by Ofc. Thomas Webster IV before he turned it on. And third, racism which is as pervasive as the air we breathe on the Eastern Shore. It's not everyone, but it's everywhere. Young, black men confronted by the police are often not given the same treatment as young, white men.
Let me illustrate everyday racism: I was at a community dinner last night which is usually a safe, good place where people simply show up to eat with folks with whom they might not otherwise. Diversity and difference are celebrated and guests are warmly welcomed by the volunteer staff. Often, there are new people who have never attended and last night this was also true. Attending with a small group of friends (who all happened to be African-American), a few newcomers got in line at a place they felt was acceptable. Unfortunately, it was not at a spot that was considered "OK" by the "regulars."
One volunteer, however, happened to be close by and stepped in to ensure a seamless entry into the conventional line. All went well — until the 80-something, white man saw his "spot" encroached upon in the small space by his seat and immediately commanded to the "offending" group, "Get in the back of the line where you belong!" The same volunteer instantly confronted the man, calling attention to his rude, inappropriate, unkind intent, to which he responded with a quiet apology. The event returned to being a safe place for all because the offense was instantly addressed and because it happened in the basement of a church where no one had any weapons.
Anton, on the other hand, was confronted by a white man with a gun who had a history of beating an unarmed black man a few years earlier. Officer Webster may or may not be a racist (or he may not realize that racism can exist without one's realization), but things did not look good for Anton. I'm white, but if I had been Anton, I wouldn't have "surrendered" either.