Jakell Lenard Mitchell, 18, was a redshirt freshman at Auburn, and the school had grand expectations for him as the 2015 season looms ahead. But to talk about Mitchell now is to use the past tense, because he’s another Black man who lost his life to senseless gunplay.
Mitchell’s death wasn’t at the hands of a cop. Mitchell died because he got into a quarrel with two men at a Sunday morning party, and, well … he took a bullet for his troubles.
One man unarmed; another man with a gun.
“He just started shooting,” Ayanna Huguley, Mitchell’s girlfriend, told authorities in Auburn, Alabama, after the incident. “Jakell fell on the ground and he tried to get back up and run, and then he fell again. He started shooting at Jakell again while Jakell was on the ground.”
Why? Was what Mitchell and the two other men were quarreling about really that serious?
Every day we hear about another Black man who died before he hit middle age. Yeah, blame these deaths on the proliferation of handguns. People find that an easy target.
But guns aren’t the problem; the problem is the men behind the barrel of the gun. They seem emboldened by the power over life that a gun gives them. They also seem obsessed with proving their manhood as a badge of honor in urban areas across America.
For Black men can’t look weak. They can’t let somebody punk them, not when partying late into the morning with perhaps a bit too much alcohol fueling their inner rage.
Whatever the urban code is that governs a Black man’s strength ought to be discarded. The code carries no more validity in a civil society than all the other codes that drive too many decisions Black males make.
At some point, they must learn to walk away – to turn down the temperature and tell the other man: You won, dude!
No one likes to lose, but some fights a man faces are worth losing, particularly when the consequences are as tragic as death.
So a Black teen with all of his life ahead of him, killed by a Black male, will be buried in a couple of days; his family, his close friends, his football coaches at Auburn, his teammates, neighbors in the apartment complex where he was shot dead … all will sift through the circumstances behind Mitchell’s death in search of answers.
The only answers might be in the killer’s mind. The cops have a 22-year-old Black man in custody on a murder charge. They expect no other arrests.
As people mourn, they should pray Mitchell’s dying on the streets of an American city, just like Eric Garner’s dying, will be the last of its kind. God knows America doesn’t need more, and surely Black Americans have had their fill of senseless gunplay.
They have buried too many Black men who looked into the front end of a pistol before they died.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo:AP Photo/Auburn University)