“Thugs”, black lives

Something I’ve noticed with regard to the ongoing mess in Ferguson: the constant description of Michael Brown as a “thug.” Now, there’s nothing new about this, but look too at the case of poor Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot by police in Cleveland, OH. A few hours after he’s shot and this story comes out: his father had a history of domestic violence, apparently.

That may be. But his father wasn’t the one shot. Why is it relevant?

These sorts of events don’t occur in a vacuum. There is a larger narrative being written. The narrative here is “Tamir Rice was born to a violent abuser and his life therefore isn’t worth as much as a 12-year-old white boy’s life.” He was born into the thug caste and that is how he died.

This is the same reason that Obama’s birth certificate mattered. Nobody gave a shit that John McCain was actually born in the Panama Canal area. His dad was in the Navy. He was white. It was OK. But Obama? He’s from Kenya, because why the hell not. He doctored his Hawaii birth certificate, knowing that in a few short decades he would be a Manchurian Candidate POTUS. Elaborate.

I’m not being particularly brave here in saying that black lives matter. It’s a blindingly obvious point. I just want people to be aware of what labelling someone a “thug” really does. If you think Michael Brown got himself killed because of his actions, okay, I can work with that. But if you start talking about black people or Tamir’s dad or black-on-black violence, you are coming damn close to saying that their lives inherently just were not as worthy as others.

Update: Stacy Patton of the Chronicle of Higher Education:

America does not extend the fundamental elements of childhood to black boys and girls. Black childhood is considered innately inferior, dangerous and indistinguishable from black adulthood. Black children are not afforded the same presumption of innocence as white children, especially in life-or-death situations.


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