What If We Treated Every Black Person’s Murder Like an Assassination?

A shot through the throat on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Sunset. Concrete absorbs blood like a priest at confession. He goes in the hush, no fanfare, no jubilee. We mourn, laws change for a while, and most importantly, a movement ends. It is quiet.

A boy most beloved plays in the green space. Afternoon. He waves a reminder of his childhood mischief and forgets that it is a crime punishable by death to be so, so pure. He falls, hot bullets cooling a black body. A mother wonders what constitutes an appropriate funeral for a child of twelve. They tell us no one is too young to die.

“You’re hired,” they say. She is in possession of a profession, doing what good people are supposed to do. She drives, forgetting that this wilderness observes no gods. Afternoon again, the sun a bloated marigold in the treetops. A lane change, no signal. He sees her and the wilderness catches its breath, knowing that she will die. A dashboard camera here, a photograph of a dead woman there. It will never be seen. Justitia is blind, they say, the furled body of a dead black woman in one of the scale’s bowls straining her wrist. The uppity Negress speaks no more.

Mama said folks always go in threes. Driving fast, again, through the wilderness. Blue midnight. You wanna fight for your right, boy? Then die for it. The other two are a warning, meant to frighten those that their terror claims to protect. Traitors to the great white way receive no reprieve. 44 days in a dam and Mississippi loosens its belt at the table, belching to make more room for the bodies of its sacrifice.

What would it feel like to asphyxiate on the blood of the lamb? A busy city street. Afternoon. He sells cigarettes, tucking one behind his ear. An impresario of cool. A life without value does not take much to extinguish, a weak flame smoking in the periphery of their disgust. He dies without breath, without dignity. The vultures ravage his still-warm body, plucking the flesh from a father and husband and leaving the bones of just another nigga from Staten Island. His daughter avenges him in her nobility. She too is a threat. There is no such thing as a black child.

I am her. She died the day I turned 20, and now we are both 22. Record your murder, they say, to use as an offering at the altar of Justitia the Blind. No, no trace. The cell phone transfigures into a weapon, and two black bodies pay the price. She lingered for two days. Go home, sweet darling, this place was not made for you. The flying Africans cradle her, racing westward over the bruised horizon. Justitia’s disciples laugh with the red camaraderie of murderers. After all, without recklessness, there can be no reward.

How much does it take to kill a man? Do you deny him access to education, the ability to feed his family, his right to voice disdain, or even his own freedom? It isn’t working, they moan. They cut us down and cut us down and we continue to return, backs straight and faces turned like mahogany petals to face the sun. No, they cannot kill this thing within, this dark, hardy soul that devours pain and blood and sacrifice and denial and births more beauty than this white wilderness has ever seen. So they kill the body instead. Six shots in the chest and back, exerting godlike authority on stolen ground. We await the acquittal, the smug justification of Justitia’s blind greed. Imagine how it would feel to know that your death has no meaning. Is this what we live for?

Assassin (noun) as·sas·sin- a person who kills someone (such as a famous or important person) usually for political reasons or for money.