Unless we look the beast in the eye we find it has an uncanny habit of returning to hold us hostage. Desmond Tutu
Who might they have become? What might they have done? What might we have learned from each of them that none of us will ever know. How might we all, race, ethnicity, class and gender aside, be different had each of them lived?
Who knows? These are questions about which we can speculate but never hope to answer. But, they form the basis of my wondering when I think about African-Americans from utero to 83 years of age who are dead. I am not talking about African-Americans who are dead due to catastrophic illnesses, or horrible accidents or suicide or because they went to sleep and did not wake up. As much as these deaths can leave love one’s swimming in tears with hearts as fragile as egg shells, there is some vestige of rhyme and reason that makes for a kind of healing born out of hope. I am talking about African-American infants, toddlers, young children, adolescents, young adults, middle age and senior citizens who are dead because some other African-Americans (primarily men) decided like so many whites (primarily men) they did not deserve to live. And what for? White men murdered African-American for being in their neighborhood. African-Americans murdered other African-Americans for being in their hood. One group motivated by racism and separatism. The other by drugs and separatism. White men’s greed put African-American families at risk. African-American drug dealers/gangs’ greed puts the African-American families at risk. Both are representative of capitalism at its finest. So, when the torch passed to 2016, several thousand African-American could not join us in singing “Old Lang Syne,” because either the policemen or another African-American murdered them. No matter how you frame it, it is the same thing.
The violence in the African-American community by African-American and the violence against African-American men by policemen is not an iceberg lettuce and hot-house tomato sandwich held together by a slice of white bread on top and a slice of brown bread on the bottom. So we need to deconstruct the arguments used to build the comparative analysis intended to prove who is the worse murderer: African-American “Thugs” or police, specifically the ones who are “white racist.” It is a stupid, self-serving comparison because 11-year old Shamija Adams who was murdered when a stray bullet tore through the wall of the home she was at for a sleep-over has been dead 18 months and is no less dead than 17-year old Justus Howell murdered by police during a confrontation a few days ago.
For the benefit of my loving friends who will demand to see my long birth certificate to authenticate my blackness, I am not giving credence to the justifications offered by FOX NEWS, Donald Trump and other Insensitives that imply police will stop killing us if we stop killing each other. But I am also not giving it to those who say we will stop killing each other if white people would just give us good jobs, etc.
It is true that we, African-American are responsible for the shooting deaths of most African-American. But it is also true that most white, Hispanic, Asian, Native Americans, etc. kill people in their racial/ethnic groups. But, what is true of other groups put African-Americans on front street because of the indisputable evidence that black lives have not and do not matter in America in the way they ought to matter simple because we are Americans.
The Black Lives Matter Movement is a timely and necessary movement that ought to be unnecessary. But it isn’t. So in-your-face action is the only way to bring attention to the behavior of men and women who have legal, professional and moral obligations to serve and protect but also have the permission of the systems that extended these obligations to murder African-Americans. Not only do they have permission to murder, they can do it knowing they have the guaranteed protection of the blue code of silence. For years, the gate keepers of the code – federal, state, local political leaders and the legal system, have been so efficient, policemen who disregarded their obligations can do, as a police investigator said about an arrested murderer, “Go have a beer and a burger as if nothing had happened.”
A goal of the Black Lives Matter Movement is, I think, to call attention to laws, policies and day-to-day practices that makes this continued blatant disregard for black lives possible not to position the value of black lives against the lives of other groups. This attention, it is hoped, will lead to the kind of systemic change that will make this the last time people will have to ask, “How much do Black lives matter in Chicago? In America?
White American keeps answering this question but only when forced to and in ways comparable to patching the levees but not repairing them so they would not break. But, it is not like white American does not know what to do to make sure everyone is clear about what she or he is suppose to do and not do when a people’s life matters. Its walls are covered with laws, acts, articles, amendments, codes, bills, mandates and other sources of communication to get the word out: White Lives Matter
It is bad enough that white American keeps acting like this question is too complex to understand let alone answer definitively. But why are we, African-Americans even having to ask this question?
What, God forbid, if black lives never matter to white American as much as they ought to? Does this mean our lives will never matter as much to us as they ought to? If this is the case and policemen continue to murder us and we continue to murder us, I and others will, on January 1, 2017, be wondering what thousands of other murdered African-Americans might have become, might have done, might have taught us?
Zora Neale Hurston, stated in Their Eyes Were Watching God, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” What year is 2016 for African-Americans?