This not guilty verdict is saddening but not surprising. In the past several years, Renisha McBride was shot in the head and lay dying on the front porch of the man who shot her through a locked door, several transwomen of color have been killed, we watched a video where Eric Garner begged for his life by saying I can’t breathe, Travyon Martin killed in a scuffle with skittles, several African American teens were shot at (and cant remember if they were killed) because they were playing there music too loud, and the examples are plentiful and illustrative.
This is just a sampling of how Black life is devalued in our society. That melanin should play such a role in our deaths might be understood within the context of how we refuse to talk about the influence of White supremacy. By this I mean, the ideological rift that permeates our social structures that presents a two fold influence that normalizes: over value non melanin skin folks over melanin skin folks. That the ways in which we think of life is associated with groups of certain people, while in contrast, death, violence, and questions of morality are associated with the skin color of groups of people.
Finally, we (African Americans/Blacks) are one of the most hated groups in America, if you rely on the sketchy, unreported data presented by the FBI, and the hate we endure has been consistent for the past 13 years or more of tracking this data. In fact, our history here as African Americans is deeply inscribed with having to face our early mortality and left to cope with brutal violence. History continues to repeat itself through morphing social structures, norms, and cultural idioms but the results remain the same.
When we die the causes of our death are often poorly articulated, poorly captured in governmental data, and often linked to biological factors (blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and so forth). We never die from causes of historical trauma, or racism, or combinations of the altering effects of sexism/homohatred/racism. In essence, this is how Freddie Gray died, and this death occurred within the social context of our chanting and yelling, screaming–Black Lives Matter.
The psychological nature of being part of a group that continues to face violence and traumatic death, and its effect on our well being is understudied. This phenomena, one of the saddest that I can think of in my work, continues to present one of the most enduring public health, and mental health challenges facing our globe. How can we espouse democratic ideas to the rest of the world, when groups of us, united by a shameful history of African enslavement, internment of Japanese, the near eradication of Native Americans, who even in their sovereignty continued to by maligned by our government and social structures, when many of us are still crying for freedom?
So acting surprised, when our deaths have become so routinely marginalized and devalued shows a contrite form of ignorance, that mocks our level of education and historical knowledge. When the police state that is clearly over militarized, and the defense of this militarization is touted as an extension of a human right, these deaths should be seen as causal and confluential.
We must bring light to the darkness, we must make some form of action to reclaim our humanity, even if it is all we can do is post on social media. To accept this devaluation as natural only reinforces the ignorant and twisted minds of our oppressors, and those individuals who divest of their identities in order to temporary gain the power of oppressors.