On Oct. 19, White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly gave what the media described as an “emotional” and “heart-wrenching” speech about the death of his son, First Lieutenant Robert Kelly, in Afghanistan. The Gold Star father described the phone call he received and the preparations taken to preserve the body for shipment home.
Gen. Kelly, we respect your son’s and your family’s sacrifice. But where is your sympathy for what I call BlackStar families the loved ones of African Americans gunned down by police in the war zone known as America?
In April 2017, 15-year-old Jordan Edwards was shot dead by Balch Springs, Tex. police officer Roy Oliver. Edwards was not riding in an armored vehicle – he was in a passenger car with his friends. Edwards was not armed with an M16 rifle – there were no weapons found in the car full of teenagers. Edwards was not wearing a helmet or flak jacket – he and his friends were leaving a house party.
After Oliver fired into the car full of teenagers, killing Edwards, he claimed that the car was backing down the road towards him. When police body cam footage revealed that the car was moving forward, the police department’s story changed.
“I unintentionally, incorrectly said the vehicle was backing down the road,” admitted Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber. “According to the video, the vehicle was moving forward as the officer approached.” On May 5, Oliver was charged with murder.
Gen. Kelly, the brave soldiers in our military at least have the benefits of training, weapons, body armor and military intelligence before they go into battle. Young Jordan Edwards and hundreds of black men and women killed each year in this country do not.
Edwards is mourned by his parents, Odell and Charmaine Edwards, and his three siblings. Charmaine Edwards said that two of the boy’s older brothers were with him when he was killed, and they are haunted by the memory.
“When they dream, they see Jordan, with smoke coming out of his head from the shot,” said the boy’s mother, “that’s what they were forced to see.”
Gen. Kelly, our families grieve their loss just as hard as military families do. Please don’t place a higher value on the sacrifices of Gold Star families than you would Black Star families.