I awoke this morning to a text message from a friend. It was a screenshot of a post made in a neighborhood Facebook group:
The picture was of a black child walking down the sidewalk. He was unaware that he was being photographed, and as of the writing of the post, there’s no way to know if he’s aware that his image is in a Facebook group and that he’s been labeled as “suspicious.” The picture was taken, and posted, by a black man. This was the very first response to the image, made by a white woman:
That was the reaction to a black child walking down the street and walking into driveways.
This post, this man, has potentially incited violence against a black child. There’s no proof or evidence that this child was committing any criminal act. He could have been looking for a lost pet, or trying to find a friend’s house, or playing Pokemon Go, or wandering aimlessly through a neighborhood. This child deserves the benefit of the doubt. Going into a driveway does not make you a thief. Walking around and being black is not a crime, no matter how many times we’ve been told otherwise.
What’s most infuriating about this episode is that it was a black man who saw this black child, and leaped to the conclusion of criminality. He claims that he “won’t make any accusations,” and then posts a picture of the child while labeling his behavior as suspicious. Black children have LITERALLY BEEN KILLED because neighbors assumed that they were a threat, while they were doing the same things white children do without a second thought. This man could not look at a boy and see a boy; he saw a threat.
He positioned the child as a threat, and the violent response was instantaneous. The very first post was a promise to meet this black child with violence. Do we value our property that highly? Are our things so important and precious to us that we publicly announce our intention to maim a black child to keep them? Are the lives of black people so disposable that a bicycle or computer or television or whatever else we assumed this CHILD was going to steal is worth more? Have we been so branded with centuries of hatred and distrust, assumptions of criminality and violent behavior, that even we see each other as the enemy?
When people say that Black Lives Matter, we’re talking about Korryn Gaines. Eric Garner. Renisha McBride. LaQuan McDonald. We say Black Lives Matter to memorialize those who have been killed because blackness has been equated to being a mortal threat which must be destroyed. But we also say Black Lives Matter to protect the lives of black women, children and men who are with us today, so that we don’t have to memorialize them tomorrow. This child’s life matters. Simply being black made him a target before, and now because of the cowardly act of publishing a PICTURE OF A CHILD online, there is at least one person who feels comfortable publicly declaring their intent to hurt him.
This is the reality of being black in America. This is why we say Black Lives Matter.