In recent months, social media has sounded and maintained the outcry that “Black Lives Matter” as a result of the murders of unarmed black children, teenagers, men, and women. While there surely have been others that have not obtained the same media attention, notable victims include, but are not limited to, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice. In each of these cases, a schism often arose among public opinion that centered on the probable guilt or innocence of the victims and/or their associates. The innocence of the victims and/or their associates has often been a focal point of debate among persons, pundits, politicians, etc. in order to determine if the victims’ deaths were in fact justifiable.
Granted, one may contend, that from a legal standpoint, determining whether or not a homicide is justifiable is logical and a necessary component of the American legal system. Without it, many innocent people simply seeking to protect themselves and their families would probably go to jail – and for long periods of time. However, the subsequent legal processes related to the killings of the majority of the aforementioned also reveal the converse. A well-known example (and therefore one to which I have pointed before), is that of nine year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Aiyana, sleeping on the couch of her home, was shot and killed when police officers stormed the residence. Instead of being convicted of her murder, the officer responsible for her death was released after conflicting accounts of events provided by Aiyana’s family and police personnel resulted in a hung jury. The officer has since returned to active duty. In another example, the man responsible for killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin remains free after a jury found him not guilty due to what was deemed a lack of forensic evidence. In the case of Eric Garner, video evidence showed he was restrained to the point of death by police officers. Still, there were no indictments.
Aside from the victimizers being allowed to continue on with their respective lives, the obscuring of events surrounding the manner in which victims’ lost their lives allowed a system to remain uninterrupted. That system is the power structure that has served to benefit and bestow advantage on non-minorities while simultaneously and consistently negating the humanity of those who died simply because they and/or their family members were perceived as a threat.
The opposite was the case of the nine persons who were in a church. By now, we have all read the accounts of the events surrounding their murders. After one hour of bible study and prayer, a young man opened fire and killed them simply for being black. The killer has since been captured and jailed. Chances are he will not see the proverbial light of day again. However, a church, in and of itself, is a sanctuary. A place of peace. These persons, effectively epitomizing goodness and righteousness, welcomed him. He. Still. Killed. Them.
The response has been one of simple moral outrage – for the most part. There are still others who, despite the
overwhelming evidence including statements made by the killer, cannot admit to the racial animus that pervades this society and disrupts the lives, families, and communities of innocent persons. They still choose to obscure the events, the details, and the truth. This is of no real shock. Astoundingly, even with the mounting evidence provided by social media on a regular basis, there are those who continue to ponder the state of race relations in this country as if there remains some ambiguity on the subject. What will it take to force those who remain complicit in a system that marginalizes and victimizes people to acknowledge the social pathology that is racism? What will it take for the complicit to realize the long-term emotional, social, and physical trauma that occurs because they choose to remain silent or in denial?
Nine people were killed in a church. There was no perceived threat to be debated. Now what?