In the wake of yet another police shooting that takes the life of a seemingly innocent black man, it’s hard not to believe that black lives do not matter much after all.
We’re all tired.
We live in a world that is full of excuses and never enough answers and as the sun breaks over the horizon, we’re faced with the reality that try as some might, black lives really don’t matter. Some of us would like to think they do, and others, well, let’s say they’re more concerned about having to hear something that either they don’t believe in, or could care less about.
Whether you’re black or you’re white or you’re brown, yellow or red, you’re someone’s friend, relative, spouse, lover, child, parent, acquaintance or complete stranger. If you fell off the face of the earth tomorrow, someone would miss you. Even if you’re a loner, or homeless, or even reviled, someone will miss you, and this is because you are a part of the fabric of life, a tapestry of moments, good and bad, and there is not one of you who hasn’t touched someone’s life in some way, a way that’s significant enough to be remembered.
None of these men knew one another, and chances are, had they all lived long lives, their paths would likely never cross, but in the span of less than two weeks, they joined a dark fraternity of men who would be gunned down by law enforcement.
Some of these men were armed, some were not. Some were black, some were not. Each of them had a story, a series of moments that led them to a fateful and ignominious end.
And so once again, we’re left to wonder whether or not black lives actually matter. If you check some of the media, both traditional and social, one would think that maybe it’s not the case.
The reason why racism is ultimately the point is that we, as a nation, are unable or unwilling to accept that years upon years after the end of slavery, the value of black life in America is devastatingly low.
For example, when Alton Sterling was murdered in Baton Rouge, LA, it didn’t take long because his criminal past was conveniently floated upward so that all of us were made to understand that maybe, just maybe, he needed to die. While Baton Rouge police said a call to 911 claimed that Sterling was “acting threatening with a gun”, they had no idea of his past before wrestling him to the ground and treating him to complimentary bullets.
That he was armed also had little cause for alarm, given that Louisiana’s gun laws are among the most lenient in the nation.
Except, of course if you’re black.
When Delrawn Small got into a road rage altercation with off-duty NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs over a near miss, what started as a legitimate fight already spiraled into differing bystander accounts of whether or not the officer was justified in shooting Small multiple times through the head and chest, where his perforated corpse would lay on the street covered by a sheet for hours as his blood would seep and coagulate and become part of a pavement that’s every bit as cold and indifferent as the reaction of some to his senseless death.
When the world saw the life drain from Philando Castile as his girlfriend broadcast his final moments over Facebook as she calmly tried to explain the events, even as the cop who gunned Castile down shouted at her; never dropping his weapon from her face, we learned that a man was dying—and would later die—all because of a broken tail light. Yes, he was armed, but he was armed legally, even telling the officer of his weapon in advance.
But of course, concealed carry laws seem to work differently when you’re black.
Dylan Small was just a white kid with a problem or two, so why is he even being mentioned here? Because his example only supports the rule.
When Small was gunned down on the pavement, he was unarmed, but the police were pissed they had to chase him, as they usually are, and once he yelled “I hate my life”, that was apparently reason enough to draw down on him, and yet in the days since his tragic death, what we haven’t heard is deafening.
Noble was killed on June 25, nearly two weeks ago. In the days since his death, not only have we heard little about the case as a whole, we also haven’t been festooned with every sordid detail of his past in order to feel better about him being executed by police.
It took less than 24 hours to impugn Sterling, bring up his past crimes; the crimes earlier mentioned as ones the police were not privy to prior to murdering him.
Soon we will find out about the crimes and misdemeanors of Small and Castile, even though Castile was thought well of in his community, working the past decade and a half in the cafeteria of J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, most recently as cafeteria supervisor.
Regardless of any good these men do and how, unlike many of the stereotypes presented concerning black men not being active fathers, we will have Good Hair Beckys like Tomi Lahren remind us that even though these men are dead, we should know the full story, including their criminal records and transgressions, all executable offenses.
And the whole time, someone will remind us that #AllLivesMatter, even if these events, and more importantly the reaction to said events go out of their way to say the contrary.
The truth is that we live in a fractured nation. America is broken, and no matter how much Donald Trump or any ideologue masquerading as a “patriot”, America is far from ever being great again, largely because Americans are dying and no one gives a damn.
Alton Sterling is an American.
Philando Castile is an American.
Delrawn Small is an American.
They are all Americans, and they are also all victims. Not just victims of police violence, but victims of equal parts indifference and racism.
Some who read this will bristle at the very mention of racism, but racism is at the heart of all of this. Maybe not the shootings themselves, but the shootings and subsequent deaths aren’t the point of this argument. The shootings alone aren’t why black lives don’t matter.
The reason why racism is ultimately the point is that we, as a nation, are unable or unwilling to accept that years upon years after the abolishment of slavery, the value of black life in America is devastatingly low.
It is so low, so goddamned low, that even black people don’t value each other enough not to be a detriment to one another. And why should they? Almost from the cradle, black men and women are inundated with clear evidence that a black life has little to no intrinsic value.
And instead of stepping in, instead of supporting fellow Americans as should be our want, the finger of blame falls on the black community with an indignant, admonishing voice that says, “LOOK WHAT YOU DO TO YOURSELVES!” White people don’t need to save us, but they don’t need to kick us when we’re down either.
But if black people are nothing, they are human, and prone to the same emotional subjugation that can emotionally scar generations. We are not helpless lambs, but we are a people defined by others’ hatred. And unlike the Jewish people who shouted “NEVER AGAIN” after the Holocaust, we are yoked by our adherence to religion and an unhealthy fear of one another fomented by media that loves to show us at our worst.
Black lives do not matter.
They do not matter because everything has become lip service. No matter how many hashtags and Shawn King articles come up, we still do not rise, and each time we think, maybe now is our time, maybe this can be the moment of change, we see another lifeless black body slumped over and a population shrugging it off, saying that it’s their own damn fault they’re dead.
Make no mistake, we, all of us, are a people in pain, marred by fear and distrust, and this is a country in distress.
Maybe there’s a deeper truth, one that we as a nation all need to face together:
American lives do not matter.
Hashim R. Hathaway (Uncle Shimbo) is the host of the Never Daunted Radio Network, and proud father to NeverDaunted.Net. You can reach him on Twitter @NeverDauntedNet