Another young African-American lost his life to police on Wednesday. You may have heard about it. I caught the news across several stations on my evening commute; it was the lead on CNN when I got home. It didn’t take long before protesters showed up to display their displeasure at the police. And, apparently, displaying their displeasure at the cars that they set on fire and the businesses they burglarized as well.
Executing a search warrant earlier in the day, police saw two men run from the back of the home police were searching. Officers ordered the men to stop and drop their weapons. In the current climate, who the hell listens to a policeman when you’ve got the reverends and a politicized Department of Justice on your side? Instead of dropping his gun, Mansur Ball-Bey decided it was his prerogative to point his weapon at the officers, who decided it was their prerogative to drop him where he stood.
From there, it all escalated as planned. Protesters blocked interstate 70. They proceeded to hurl bricks and bottles at officers and set fire to cars. Black lives matter you know. Maybe not so much in this North St. Louis neighborhood where crime is at very high levels, but hey, black lives matter anyway. Keep repeating that phrase until it washes away your white privilege or white guilt or whatever helps you sleep at night. Because it actually does nothing for black lives at all. Except maybe shield many from the horrible truth that the epidemic of deaths that consume so many young black men is largely the fault of, well, of many other young black men.
Not far away from North St. Louis is Ferguson, where black lives surely matter. They matter so much that people gathered to remember their martyr, Mike the “gentle giant” Brown. And during the gathering, shots were fired into the crowd sending one victim to the local hospital, prompting the victim’s sister to scream in dismay at the crowd that “they killed my brother, they shot my brother.” Later on that Sunday, the esteemed Cornel West planned to go to jail over an act of civil disobedience. “Our criminal justice system is an abysmal failure,” West said. “Black faces in high places don’t always translate it into justice for poor people.” He never mentioned who may be committing the crimes; just that trying to stop them, arresting and prosecuting those who commit them is an abysmal failure. Indeed. No failure on the part of the community that makes excuses or looks the other way when these crimes are committed. Against themselves. By their own young men whose lives, we are told, matter greatly. Never mind that police are greatly outnumbered by the population of citizens residing in Ferguson. Or that when police are called by the citizens in Ferguson, it’s to protect those same victim-citizens of color from those same young black men whose lives surely matter.
Not far away in Ferguson, and only days after celebrating the life and accomplishments of Mike Brown, yet another black victim falls to the senseless violence. I’m not so sure her life matters though; I never heard mention on CNN, or CBS or on the drive-time radio on the way home. Did a quick google search on her name and not many results came up from the main stream media. Thanks goodness for the foreign press. I’m trying to figure out why her life didn’t matter. Who is marching for Jamyla Bolden? When do the protests start? Jamyla was lying on her mother’s bed doing her assignment for school. Someone stood outside the window of the young girl’s home and sprayed at least five bullets into the house. Jamyla was mortally wounded while her mother was struck in the leg. Jamyla was only nine years old. She wasn’t strong-arming a convenience store clerk; she wasn’t trying to forcibly disarm a police officer; she wasn’t standing in a back alley pointing a gun at police officers after being told to drop the weapon. She was lying on her mother’s bed, engrossed in her homework on the path to bettering herself and quite probably her family and community. Her grandmother pleaded with her to keep breathing as her life slowly ebbed away. And despite the best efforts of two of Fergusons’ most hated civil servants to keep her alive, she died from her wounds, probably delivered at the hands of another young black man whose life surely matters.
When you start marching for the Jamylas of the world, you’ll truly convince me that black lives matter. When you look deeply into the heart of your communities to really search for the answers, then black lives will truly matter. But if Jamyla doesn’t matter to you, if the heroes and the inspirations of your marches and protests are the gentle giants of the world, then it won’t matter what I believe. You will continue to take your own lives for reasons that will never be solved by any political slogan.
Who marches for Jamyla?