The news broke Monday afternoon that yet another jury has declined to indict a person responsible for the unnecessary death of a black person.
Every time the shooting death of another young life goes unpunished, subtle messages are communicated to young black people about how they should behave, expect to be treated, and navigate the world. These lessons include:
1. Be respectful to police, no matter what. (Even when they unfairly threaten or arrest you, ignore basic protocols, and use excessive force.)
2. Sometimes that won't help.
3. Sometimes that won't save your life.
4. Do not wear hoodies.
5. Or baggy pants, or any other clothing that might be misconstrued as "thuggish."
6. If possible, wear a suit at all times.
7. Know that not even the fanciest suit will protect you from being pegged "suspicious."
8. Your blackness will always be the main thing that makes you a threat.
9. Long before you even hit puberty, you will be regarded as a man, not a boy.
10. Skip the toy aisle with guns at your local department store, lest you be mistaken for an armed gunman.
11. Recognize that these lessons don't apply to your white friends.
12. Don't listen to loud music in a car with friends.
13. Don't Cosplay.
14. Don't hang out at pool parties.
15. Tread carefully. There's a chance you could be shot dead by the police before you're even arrested for anything.
16. You will be blamed for your own death, thanks to any past behavior that paints you in a less than stellar light.
17. That means bad grades, experimenting with marijuana, or taking grainy webcam pics where you're holding up the middle finger.
18. Make sure to have at least one or two "respectable" photos of you online for the media to use after you're killed. Preferably, a picture of you in a cap and gown (because only educated people deserve to live).
19. In the event that you are needlessly shot and killed, do not expect justice for your death.
20. It does not matter if your death is caught on camera, and replayed over and over on the 24-hour-news-cycle to the morbid fascination and horror of the country.
21. It does not matter if your name becomes a trending hashtag on Twitter.
22. It does not matter if people march the streets of your city, of countless U.S. cities, in your name.
23. It does not matter if your parents tearfully stand at press conference podiums and plead for your killer to be held accountable for your death.
24. More often than not, your killer will not be indicted, they will go free.
25. Across social media, people will post messages of disgust and sadness. But no one will be surprised.
26. This is not OK. No black person should ever have to learn these lessons and accept them as facts of life. No black person should grow up feeling unsafe, or feeling like they must prove their own humanity.
27. But, we do.
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