Black musician stood up for himself and family, teaching his son to push for change in the face of violent bias.

Ben Crump
Opinion contributor

Keyon Harrold Jr. learned a harsh lesson at the age of 14 in a New York City hotel lobby: It doesn’t matter who you are, who your parents are, what they can afford or what your family’s values are. If you are Black in America, that fact eclipses everything else, and you are at constant risk of being seen as criminal or dangerous.

Another viral video has documented the persistent truth of racism in America. It showed Keyon Jr. being accosted by a woman and accused of stealing her cellphone. No matter that he’s the son of an acclaimed jazz musician who has performed with artists such as Jay-Z and Common. Or that this father and son had the means to stay as registered guests at the Arlo, the boutique hotel where the incident occurred. Still, a manager asked Keyon Jr. to show the phone to prove it wasn’t the woman’s.

Again, we see evidence of two justice systems in America, and the one governing Black Americans sees Black people as guilty until proven innocent. Fortunately, this father had the presence of mind and strength of character to refuse the demand for his son to turn over the phone and prove his innocence. This imparted a lesson to the young man that every Black child needs to learn — stand up for yourself and for your rights or they will be taken from you. If you don’t stand up, nothing will change.

Attorney Ben Crump, right, at a news conference on Dec. 30, 2020, held for the family of Keyon Harrold Jr., along with the Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and Keyon Harrold Sr.

Fortunately, this time, a Black man standing up for himself and his family didn’t turn deadly, as it so often does.

The incident happened in December during a year in which videos brought bad behavior into sharp focus and prompted a national reckoning on racial injustice. But, clearly, an awakening alone does not produce change. And what remains in the shadows are the more insidious forms of racism that course through America’s veins, including the abject abuse and negligence of powerful interests — government and corporate — against the marginalized and the voiceless, so often people of color.

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