Black Lives Don’t Matter in America

When I read the news that the Walter Scott trial had been declared a mistrial, I wasn’t surprised. I was saddened, but I wasn’t surprised. I was frustrated but I wasn’t surprised. The cycle repeats itself: Police officer kills someone, the justice system lets him off, rinse and repeat.

To be perfectly honest, when I saw #WalterScott trending on Twitter, I couldn’t remember who he was off the top of my head. Black people are shot by the police with such regularity that it’s hard to keep all the shootings straight in one’s mind. That shouldn’t be the case, yet here we are. Once I refreshed my memory, I thought about how this case was one we where assumed justice would be served. There’s video evidence of the officer shooting a fleeing, unarmed man eight times in the back. Open and shut. First-year law students could prosecute the case and still get a conviction. But I forgot the America we live in.

A place where a man get killed by the police for selling loose cigarettes on a corner or CD’s in a parking lot. A place where even when you’re reaching for your wallet in accordance with their orders, a police officer can still kill you. A place where video evidence of a officer killing a black man can’t even get the officer convicted of manslaughter. Not even murder. Manslaughter. That means at least one person on the jury watched the video and concluded that the shooting was an appropriate use of force. I want to ask how anyone could possibly come to that conclusion, but I already know the answer: Black lives don’t matter in America.

I want to be angry. I want to rant and rave and rage at the gross injustice of it all. I want to scald the page with words that express my fury. But I can’t. Because I don’t feel angry right now even though I know I should be. The place in my soul where the anger would reside is now filled with numbness. Numbness because this happens to black people again and again and again. We thought we’d get justice this time. This wasn’t like when Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or Freddy Gray was killed. There was indisputable video evidence of what happened. How could we not get justice? But in end, the rug was pulled out from under us yet again. The message is loud and clear: Black lives don’t matter in America.

I think this one feels different because the fact that America doesn’t care about people who look like me has finally sunk in. I’ve not been shy about calling out racism in America but I think some small part of me wanted to be wrong. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I wanted to believe that at its core, America was still a place with liberty and justice for all. I wanted to believe that America was a place where Good would prevail. I wanted to believe that if I, a young black man, were to be unlawfully killed by the police, my family would at least get justice. But that’s not the America we live in. We live in a country where people bend over backwards to justify the police killing a 12-year old child. The America we learn about in our middle school history classes; one of equality and justice and freedom, is nothing more than a fairy tale for people of color. Black lives have never mattered in America.

I’ve written pieces like this so many times I could write them in my sleep. This is usually the part where I plead for empathy in the hope that maybe, just maybe, we can build an America that actually embodies the equality it espouses. But I’m not so sure anymore. If America hates black people so much that it cannot convict a police officer of murder in a case where there is clear video evidence, how am I supposed to believe that She will care about voting rights or housing discrimination or criminal justice reform? It’s not like Americans don’t know about the racism in our country. They’ve just just decided, in large part, that they don’t care. Because Black lives don’t matter in America.