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April 14, 2024

Elston Howard becomes the first Black player on the New York Yankees baseball team on this date in 1955.

The Killing of Robert Godwin, Sr.

POSTED: April 18, 2017, 8:30 am

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As a Black man in his twilight years, Robert Godwin Sr. had probably experienced many hardships in his life. He likely overcame much, with much less, and persevered as Black men frequently do in America. That’s what makes his killing all the more painful. If you are a Black man in America and have lived long enough to see your hair gray, that alone is a victory. To have your life snuffed out, on Easter no less, and by a Black man, is the epitome of tragedy.

On Sunday a coward, an immature boy disguised as a man, pulled his car alongside of Mr. Goodwin and shot him in the face while recording the horror on Facebook. The perpetrator, whose name does not deserve to be uttered, committed this horrible act apparently because he was upset over a relationship gone awry. So, rather than reconcile his feelings in a mature manner, this low-life decided to go out and prey upon anyone he randomly chose. It happened to be Mr. Godwin.

It is incidents such as this that pain me as a Black man. Have we so lost sense of our humanity that we can casually spill the blood of our brothers? And yes, the violence in the streets of many of our cities is certainly worthy of condemnation, but the killing of Mr. Godwin is a new low. If nothing else, the value we once placed on our elderly bound us together as a community. We once had many Mr. Godwins in our neighborhoods; wise elders who linked the present to the past, shared stories of old times, provided was counsel, and was the extended grandfather or “pop” to many. I could imagine that Mr. Godwin was seen as that type of figure. A father of 9 children and grandfather of 14, he was likely a staple of his neighborhood; that dependable face you could count on being a presence no matter what happened or who did what.

Now, because of the cowardly act of one individual, Robert Godwin Sr. is no more.

There is such a foulness in Mr. Godwin’s murder. It evokes a wide range of emotions. From grief and sorrow to disgust and anger. He had earned his peace – he had survived. He had navigated the landmines of this world, he had raised his children and saw grandchildren come into his life. Mr. Goodwin had acquired a status – old – that frequently evades Black men in a society that disposes of us with great efficiency.

Then along came the coward. In one evil act, he accomplished what the history of white supremacy normalized; dismissing our humanity. This perpetrator is deserving of our wrath and should get no sympathy. His name should be defiled in perpetuity and the image of his face should be stricken from our collective memories. This is not about his family or his upbringing or his relationship. It’s about him. It’s about his immorality, his selfishness, his utter lack of respect for his elder. He deserves no consideration in our system of justice and he is not worth the cost of a trial.

“Mr. Godwin did nothing to earn such a horrific death, and his family does not deserve the incredible anguish and pain they are now experiencing over losing him this way. They now deserve justice in whatever form it comes.”

What has become of us? What has become of Black men? There is an evil within that has set us upon one another. Is it the result of the socialization in American society in which we are deemed worthless and disposable? Is it feelings of rage over our seeming unimportance and the manner in which we are denied and so easily discarded? Could it be that any rejection, however normal in the sense of human interaction, can trigger a disproportionate response that might seem reasonable to the offended but inappropriate to reasonable people? Has this rage become so intensified that we now violate the one boundary that has been sacrosanct in Black life by abusing and harming our elders?

Mr. Godwin did nothing to earn such a horrific death, and his family does not deserve the incredible anguish and pain they are now experiencing over losing him this way. They now deserve justice in whatever form it comes. There is no court of law that can deliver justice for this family. The best a court can do in this instance is administer punishment. Justice will have to be provided in some other fashion. Hopefully it will meet up with this perpetrator, who is on the run, in the form of street vengeance, with the same brutality that he unleashed on Mr. Godwin. This coward deserves nothing less.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Mr. Godwin's name. We apologize for the error.

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