The stories about the tragic and needless deaths of African American men and boys have been coming at us for some time now: Trayvon Martin. Mike Brown. Eric Garner. And now, Freddie Gray. And I can almost certainly say that another name will be added to the list shortly.
The reactions in the media and online have been both predictable and lamentable. The dead black man is routinely and as a matter of course demonized and called a dangerous thug. The word “thug” only seems to exist as racial shorthand for victims who somehow brought their demise on themselves.
The cops or law enforcement who caused the death of the supposed “thug” is routinely lionized, as well. Or at least, there were extenuating circumstances that make the death somehow rational. Never mind that the murdered African American men all had friends and loved ones who will mourn their passage. No, the world is now better off without the menace that the dead man or boy would have no doubt posed to society had they continued living. This is the narrative we’re fed on a regular basis by the media in this country.
In the name of being “informed” about events like this, people will willingly allow themselves to be told this narrative over and over again. So I would rather just skip all of this, because I know the conclusion I’m supposed to draw. And I won’t allow this to happen.
I visited Baltimore once, for a few hours on Spring Break three years ago. It won’t ever be the same again, not after the riots that brought about the imposition of martial law in the city. But give it another week or two, and the same story will play itself out all over again. The victim’s name and location will be different, but the end result will be all too familiar.
I’m taking the time that I otherwise might spend on hearing the media’s old story and doing something constructive, instead. I don’t regret broken windows or destroyed property, because that can be replaced if the will to do so exists. Rather, I mourn the loss of life because nobody can wake the dead.
Murder is an act of brutal finality, and it needs to be understood as such. What will that take for this to become an accepted societal narrative? I’m not sure, but there’s no way that CNN or the other news sources will ever provide it to me. That’s one thing I can confidently say.