The Blog

End the Open Season: On Black Folks, Violence and Remembrance

From cultural appropriation and media condemnation to the physical brutality and slaughter, Blackness in America, though mirrored globally, is unjustly marked by violence.
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Monica Mcbride, mother of the unarmed 19-year old Renisha Mcbride who was gunned down by Ted Wafter, stated that in his conviction "[Renisha's] life mattered, and we showed that."

This summer's Trial of Ted Wafter marks another of several landmark cases where a Black life was taken. Renisha McBride became yet another entry into the ingrained and systemic archive of anti-Black violence in this country. This canon of violence stems from the traumatic injustices of slavery to the iconic tragedy of Emmett Till and more modern reminders of James Byrd Jr., Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and countless other people of color. Just this weekend news broke of police in Fergerson, Missouri shooting and killing unarmed 17-year-old teenager Michael Brown, and here we are again.

There is an open season on Black life in this country. In the way that ducks and deer are sanctioned for killing with the right time of the year, we seem to find Black bodies sanctioned with death and destruction. If there is any doubt of the prevalence, statistics have shown one Black man is killed every 28 hours by police or vigilantes -- and that's just Black men. From cultural appropriation and media condemnation to the physical brutality and slaughter, Blackness in America, though mirrored globally, is unjustly marked by violence.

The open season however does not end at the tip of police barrels, media outlets and national discourse find nuanced ways to kill Black folk even as their physical bodies lay cold on suburban street corners and under nighttime porch lights. Trayvon's hood, Renisha's alleged drunkenness, Jordan Davis' loud music all were placed as legitimizing factors for their grotesque executions. I've seen the Facebook and Twitter comments demanding to know what victims did to invoke such violence. And with that, too often the real point is unarmed Black folk are being killed. In a country that attempts to hold its justice system as dynamic and fair, we have seen death as the sentence for un-tried crimes. We see death as response to unfounded threat. We see death as justifiable in the face of hateful fears and disregard for Black life. We have seen the way reports of these injustices hold the often unarmed victims to as much scrutiny and shame as the assailants. We see names and fact and contexts lost or omitted. We saw Ted Wafer become a suburban homeowner and Renisha Mcbride described as a drunk woman on a porch. Even in death, she was the condemned.

The violence of condemnation in death, comes as an unhealthy reminder of how criminal and threatening Blackness is in America. While arguments of respectability are rampant and viral, we have unfortunate reminders how little class, wealth and education privileges mean to Black bodies. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in a suit, President Obama was the first president to have to show his birth records, and Ersula Ore, an Arizona State professor was even assaulted by police for trying to cross the street. The demeanors or dress or occupation of Black folk do not save them from the threat of attack and discrimination. Terror is placed on our bodies in particular ways.

There are works being, and to be, done here. Reports of riots in Missouri around Brown's murder echo early stories of the Rodney King riots I was born into during April of 1992 in Los Angeles. Justifiable outrage spilling into the streets demanding revolution; that is a resistive and reactionary work that need to be understood and supported with nuance and reason. There are also moments being called for vigil and remembrance.

This Thursday at 7pm EST/ 4pm PST, in recognition of recent murders, there is a National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) for the victims of police brutality. These gatherings of peace are not to be dismissed as submissive or passive. These are a resistance of collective healing. Popping up from Houston to San Francisco to Chicago to Boston, organizers are planning gatherings to memorialized those lives unfairly taken too soon by the hands of police and vigilante violence.

In the open season on Black life, it is our work to remind the national consciousness that Black life matters; inherently and forever. There are several works to be done to address the open season of violence and I hope you can find ways locally to stand in remembrance at that time.