As two videos go viral of young unarmed black men being shot to death by police officers and white supremacists, outrage in the black community has peaked again.
I didn’t want to watch the murder of innocent black men unfold in front of my eyes for my own selfish reasons. I didn’t want to experience the incessant raw emotions or get that feeling where my heart drops to my stomach at the harsh truth that the videos that keep resurfacing on my cell phone are my living reality. The imagery is nearly impossible to escape. It has been so hard to even bring myself to write about this but it would be extremely careless of me not to speak up about this injustice.
Recently, a viral video surfaced of the heinous murder and attack of Ahmaud Arbery. On February 23, Arbery was just casually jogging through a local neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia when he was hunted down, trapped, and murdered by his white killers, Greg and Travis McMichael, and alleged accomplice, William Bryant. Although Arbery was unarmed, McMichaels suspected he could be a burglar and pursued him; that pursuit resulted in his death. The McMichaels were arrested on May 7, but are still hiding behind Georgia’s “citizens arrest” law.
On Wednesday, May 6, another video surfaced on the internet of a similar situation. U.S Air Force veteran Sean Reed was shot over 13 times by police in a high-speed chase in Indianapolis. In the video, you could hear the young black man pleading, “Please come get me. Please come get me! I’m at 62nd and Michigan.” he exclaimed, almost jokingly. Almost. Not realizing the severity of was about to unfold next. Reed raced down the street expelling panicked expletives out of fear, not understanding the magnitude of his actions. Now he’s dead. The video shows the officers who killed Reed joking afterward saying, “Looks like he’ll need a closed casket homie”. These officers have no remorse for their agendas of pure evil.
These graphic images of young Black men being gunned down put into stark view the dangers of being Black in America.
Many on social media are calling these tragic deaths “lynchings,” a term used to describe a murder by a mob (3 or more people) with no due process. More than 4,400 African-Americans were killed and brutally tortured by white mobs between 1877 and 1950, and these are only the recorded instances. In over 99 percent of those cases, the perpetrators were never held accountable for their evil actions.
Just like the lynchings of the 20th century, the deaths of Reed and Arbery —and many of the other countless videos of Black Americans being killed that have gone viral on the internet— carry with it a long disgruntled history of images of Black murder and suffering being consumed by society. Photos of lynchings were frequently shared as a way of advancing white-supremacist points of view or to terrorize the minds of Black Americans.
In 1955, one of the most barbaric murders in history took place. Emmett Till was lynched by whites who accused him of flirting with a white woman. 14-year-old Emmett Till’s brutalized body sparked national outrage, but the images were still not enough for his white killers to be punished in the court of law. An all-white jury found Till’s killers not guilty. Likewise, modern-day videos may increase awareness of the deaths of Black people and even put pressure on law enforcement to charge the perpetrators but there is still a tragically low number of convictions in these cases.
We know for a fact that historically and in the modern-day, local law enforcement fails to prosecute lynching cases. Whether the perpetrators are white men who have deputized themselves like George Zimmerman in the case of Trayvon Martin or are police officers who have acted way out of their authority like Jeronimo Yanez who killed Philando Castile, Aaron Dean who killed Atatiana Jefferson, and Caesar R. Goodson, Jr. who killed Freddie Gray.
While the death of a loved one can be tragic for the family and community of any police-shooting victim regardless of race, studies reveal that there is deeper trauma for African Americans, related to the victim or not.
The unjustified killing of black people in America is like a wound that never heals, it just keeps being reopened and further infected.
How do we survive in a country with laws that protect white people who kill black people? How do we deal with this hardship? What do we tell our black men, boys, and children? How should we respond to this new pain? First, we have to acknowledge the trauma. We can not let the media allow our minds to be desensitized to this news. We must address the triggers and find a way to peace and healing. Then we all must use our voices to bring awareness and demand justice collectively.
We must understand that no voice is too small or insignificant and that we must fight together for the change we desire to see.