Another Name on the Record

Ledger 2

Ledger 2 (Photo credit: melstampz)

Travon Martin, Darius Simmons,  and so many other names added to the record every year. More young men, and sometimes women, killed all the time because the color of their skin leaves them no voice. So many names if I were to type all of them out no doubt my computer would freeze up on me. We have to add another to that record now: Renisha McBride. A teenage girl gunned down for the crime of being black.

Because make no mistake, that is exactly why she died. Had she been the lily-white the citizens of Dearborn Heights are accustomed to seeing in their community then her killer would have offered her the assistance she needed. A white girl is a victim, not a criminal and part of me shudders to think what crime might not be reported in that case. Mind you it is a crime women of color have to worry about at least as much, it is just that they are never “good” victims when that happens.

No, Renisha will not be a “good” victim, at least not in the broader public eye. Not yet at least. I guess we are just not there and that is sickening. Oh, the inestimable Melissa Harris-Perry will weigh in. As will, I hope, the brave and always strong voices of Doctors Davis and West. A few white voices will chime in, lending credibility that they ought not be able to, some of them quite proud of themselves for doing so.

Then will come the other voices. The people so desperate to maintain a status quo in which we are the default. They will dig up some minutiae about Renisha. Maybe she smoked pot. Maybe she skipped school. Maybe she got in a fight once. Anything and everything they can do to maintain that image of the dangerous black person. Anything they can do to erase her, and every Person of Color’s, humanity, reducing her to a faceless, voiceless threat that is required to justify her very existence while simultaneously being denied the means to do so.

Well she may be silenced, and therefore voiceless, forever, but she is not faceless. We have seen her face. It is a face her loved ones will never look in the eye again. It is a face that  will never be photographed upon her graduation from college, beam on her wedding day, or smile down at her children. It is a face that will never be captured in an employee of the month frame on the wall. It is a face that will never look on with love as she cares for her parents in their later years.

One of the truly sad things about our society is had I mentioned any of those events in any other context, hers is not the face you would have seen. You would have seen a white face, because you cannot possibly make your head see a black face in that light. The face of a black person is the face of crime, of welfare queens, of drug addiction, and of violence. It is a face you have allowed yourself to be trained to fear, and that is why Renisha is dead.

So we have to add her name, with so many on the record. Too many names, too many crimes, and too many of us are complicit, to an extent, in them all. We are accountable because even the best of us too often are content with hand-wringing and pointing the finger at the obvious suspects. This needs to end, now, before we add another name, and another life, to the ledger.


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