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(At EBONY, Damon shares a story about a shoplifting experience as a kid, and realizes the only difference between him and Michael Brown is that he was lucky enough to live long enough to tell it)

I’m 35 now, almost two decades removed from that summer. The Hilfiger shirt from the picture with my mom still sits in a box in one of my closets, a #TBT relic from my days as a silly, fashion-obsessed teenager. When my family gathers in Pennsylvania every summer to eat hot dogs and tell stories, that one has often been my contribution. I can (obviously) write about it. I hope to even tell it to my kids one day, when they’re old enough to realize the shoplifting story is a cautionary tale, not a humblebrag.

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I can sit here and tell it today because I got lucky. If I were unlucky, I could have been stopped by security. If even less lucky, I could have gotten stopped by the police. And considering who I was—a young, cocky, six-foot tall Black male—a roll of the eyes, a nervous grin, an accidental drop of my book bag, or just existing as a young Black male could have led to me getting arrested. Or shot. Or both. And (possibly) killed.

I can even picture how initial news reports might have read. There’d be a mention that I was shot while caught stealing. Maybe it would even include that I was from East Liberty. Sure, it was unfortunate that brave officer had to shoot me, but because I was a kid from the ’hood committing a robbery downtown, I was a burgeoning menace to society, and it had to be done.

I doubt my 3.2 GPA, National Merit Scholar recognition, and status as one of the better ballplayers in the city would make the press. Maybe in a week or so, after a local activist or reporter spoke to my parents… But since the public’s perception of me would have already been clouded by the early stories, it wouldn’t have mattered much. I’d be forever known as one of them: one of the dozens of young Black males killed in the Pittsburgh area each year who "deserved" their fate.

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But fortunately, none of that happened. And so I’m sharing this story because I can.

And because Michael Brown can’t.

(Read the rest at EBONY)