'Why are we so much of a target?': J-M's Jayden Davis speaks on racism, police reform

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/2/20

Q&A on racism and police reform with Jayden Davis, a 17-year old Jordan-Matthews High School student-athlete.

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'Why are we so much of a target?': J-M's Jayden Davis speaks on racism, police reform

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Posted

Editor’s note: In its July 1 edition, the News + Record featured Jayden Davis, a 17-year-old Jordan-Matthews High School student-athlete, in a story on the intersection of racial injustice protests and sports. Davis, who is Black and plays football and basketball, reached back out to the newspaper for this extended Q&A on racism and police reform after a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times on Aug. 23, paralyzing Blake and triggering further protests across the country last week. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Did you watch the Jacob Blake video? If so, what were your immediate thoughts?

I watched the Jacob Blake video a couple times. I didn’t believe it at first. I read something scrolling through Instagram that he’d been shot in his back seven times. I just thought, “Are you serious?” But then I was scrolling through Snapchat, and somebody has posted the actual video of police really shooting him, right there in his car. I thought again, “Wow. Are you serious?”

He was trying to break up a fight, and he was just walking back to his car. Police shot him right in front of his kids. Like, wow. At least George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis wasn’t in front of his little girl. I couldn’t be one of those kids. Ain’t no telling how they’re going to be later on. They might not know what had happened right then. But just think about when they get older, their minds start to expand and they start to learn more about race and injustice. It’s going to hurt them. It’s for sure hurting people right now. It’s kind of hard for me to focus right now. It’s just crazy to me.

I don’t even know how to get the words out. Why are we so much of a target? It’s always Blacks. You can go on social media and see how white cops treat white people differently. You’re just killing us for no reason, man. I just want to know why we’re a target. That’s really all I want to know. We haven’t done anything to anybody — I don’t mean to go all the way back to the slave trade, but I mean, even then, we didn’t do anything to white people. If anything, you’d think it would be the other way around: Black people killing white people for all they’ve done to us in the past. But it’s the other way around.

How this shooting along with Floyd’s death affected you?

Somebody I really look up to right now is LeBron James: all he has to say, what he’s been doing. He expresses himself, you know? The NBA boycott last week was great. That’s something they should’ve done. Some people were opposed, but at the end of the day, we all need change. What really stood out to me was the WNBA, and the women who made and wore those shirts with seven red gunshot wounds on the back (to reflect Blake’s shooting). That really hit me. I need one of those shirts — I might make one on my own. I wish I could go to Wisconsin right now and protest, but it’s not that easy.

My mind is everywhere. My emotions are everywhere, man. It’s just hard to feel right now. When I’m not doing anything, this is what I’m thinking of. I’m lucky, proud and blessed that I haven’t been directly confronted with racism or had to deal with the police. But my mindset would be to just obey the law and not do anything stupid. Us Blacks, we’re a target. The best thing you can do is just act right in public and always obey the officer. Even if you’re in the right and he’s in the wrong, just deal with it later. I mean, you’d be better off doing that than getting your life taken.

What kind of police reform would you like to see?

I think the issue is the police themselves. They get the teaching and the training. They get certified. I think it’s people themselves. I mean, that one officer could have woken up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, or he might have been going through some at home that got him mad. I’m not going to say that’s what made him pull the trigger, but your mind is a very complicated thing, and mindsets can change easily. It’s all about individual mindsets. So it could have been an outside source that led to Jacob Blake being shot — but, I mean, who knows what was going through that officer’s mind?

The George Floyd killing hurt me, but now it’s all of them that hurt me. George Floyd was the tip of the iceberg. A lot more Black people have been killed over the years. It just may not be as publicized — I mean, there’s probably a few instances here in Siler City, at some point in time, that we don’t know about.

As far as the laws, I think they’re fine. And the police, I know, are all trained and certified. But it feels like laws sometimes aren’t applied to them. If you kill somebody, it’s a murder. You’ve got a prison sentence. I guess cops have different laws they live by, or at least that’s what it seems like — that cops have some authority over the law. It takes forever for them to get in court and get that charge against them. That charge should go against officers like Breonna Taylor’s killers (in Louisville) right then and there. It’s crazy to me they can kill somebody and just get nothing.

How can we confront racism on a broader level? How can white people be allies?

Not all white people are racist, but there are racist white people — a whole bunch. I personally don’t have anything against them being prejudiced, as long as they’re not affecting or harming or arguing with me or my family. People have their own opinions. Still, I’d like to see everybody come together. We might be different skin colors, but at the end of the day, we all bleed the same. We all have the same rights. Just because you’re white doesn’t mean you have more rights than I do, even it seems that way sometimes because of the justice system. We all have the same rights. We all still go by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. So let’s come together, and realize it’s not about color.

Color shouldn’t jeopardize how you treat us. Just think: if it was the other way around, if Black people were consistently killing white people, they would be out here acting the same way. Us Blacks, we just want equality. We’re not trying to get revenge. We just want equality, man. We want peace and equality. We’re not trying to start any more problems than there already are.

And we’re very afraid of the police. You could leave home and not return. Just think about how mothers are right now with their Black sons, especially teenagers. I mean, my mom worries every time I leave the house, hoping I return, hoping I don’t have any interactions. It’s scary out here. It’s hard to even express.

Racism will always be around. We can’t do anything about that. It’s not like we wake up one morning, and there’s no more racism. I hope we can influence it, or try to help it, but at the end of the day it’s what people want to do. And that goes for anything — like, if you want to be a doctor, you’re going work hard and get the grades and go to school to be a doctor. In any situation, you’re going to do what you want to do, regardless of people’s influence. It’s all about your mindset. If you want to be racist, you’ll be racist. That’s just how it is. Nobody’s born racist. It’s taught. But at the end of the day, it’s not right. And if you want to change it, you will. A lot of people say they’re not racist, but your actions speak louder than your words. They always do.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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