Another Bolt of Lightning

Another Black Kid Lost Forever, Nothing Changes

Warning: May be triggering to human beings

I came to Medium yesterday as I do every Tuesday, excited to see the next one-line poetry prompt. In this case it was Lightning, which was somehow apropos as I then read about Jordan Edwards.

For those who may have missed it, Jordan was a 15-year-old black boy in a car full of kids just leaving a party when he was gunned down by Texas police. The officers initially claimed that the car was being driven aggressively toward them, until video proved it was driving away. And lest you jump to any conclusions (as so often seems to happen when a black male is killed), Jordan was by all accounts a good kid with two parents at home — a popular football player and solid student.

Whenever I hear about someone dying it saddens me; when they die unnecessarily, it sickens me. When a child is killed, it just tears me apart. I have 16-year-old and 18-year-old biological daughters, plus three exchange student daughters and a wide variety of other teens who are at our house more often than not. I imagine a bullet ripping through any one of them, and it makes me want to vomit. I imagine the pain of Jordan’s parents, knowing they did everything right and with so much to be proud of, and yet having it destroyed in seconds. And I imagine the sorrow of every single other black parent in America, feeling more and more hopeless about the future of their children as lightning strikes the same spot again, and again, and again.

That’s just a part of what makes me so sad and angry. The officer who committed the murder has been fired, but chances are good that if he faces charges, a jury will likely let him go free. Somehow videographic evidence is never enough. At best, it will be a hung jury. A white juror recently said there was nothing a policeman could do to warrant a conviction; apparently a badge is a license to kill at will. The defense will talk about the time when three-year-old Jordan swiped a piece of candy, said a dirty word, and the jury will nod knowingly. He must have deserved his fate. But there’s more.

There is already much sound and fury from the cadre of talented black writers here on Medium. Son of Baldwin has written directly about it, as have numerous others. Thaddeus Howze, Ezinne Ukoha and others illustrate the pain and injustice of being black in America. Tre L. Loadholt will crystallize the sorrow in a plethora of fiction and poetry. walkerjo lee will make it resonate in our very bones. And we white people?

Nothing. Radio silence.

I mean sure, there are be lots of Recommends, an occasional sorry or even a reference to the sadness of the event. Trump, of course, is silent because he doesn’t give a crap. My Facebook feed doesn’t have a single mention, which is almost a blessing given that for every #blacklivesmatter there will be two or three #alllivesmatter. It will turn into a discussion between everyone with a policeman in their family or circle of friends. We will hear how difficult their job is, and how they lay their lives on the line every single day (true enough, but completely irrelevant here). We will talk about how it’s somehow the fault of the black community, because some other black person somewhere else did something bad some other day.

At this point, all I can think to say is,

What the Fuck, White America?

Is our skin color really the most important thing about us? Are we not mothers? Fathers? Sisters and brothers? Human beings?!

I don’t know Jordan personally, but there are still a lot of things I can say about him:

· He used to wrestle with his brothers on the living room floor, and occasionally punch each other in passing.

· He’d get a little bored in class and read his cell phone, text his friends, chew bubblegum.

· His parents would attend his football games and he’d pretend like he didn’t care, but of course he did. He’d run a little faster, play a little harder.

· He was excited to be at a party with his big brother.

· He made little cards and presents at least a couple of times for Mother’s Day — partly because he was too little to have much money at the time, but also because he loved her.

· He’d think that girl was cute, but he probably wouldn’t say much to her. Might walk past her with a little more make-believe swagger, though.

· He was thrilled at the thought of driving soon, and may have even snuck a circle or two around an empty parking lot with his dad before it was officially time.

· He’d drop his stinky football uniform on his bedroom floor sometimes, no matter how loud his mother would yell.

· Other times he would be the only person at the table who’d remember to say, “Good dinner mom, thanks.”

I could go on for a while, because I have a brother, I have kids, I have friends with sons. And now all of that is gone — just poof — for no good reason whatsoever. In the coming days, his parents will highlight how they’ll miss his graduation and never see him get married, but the real heartache is in the thousands of smaller moments that make up the essence of who Jordan was. His mother will sob just doing the laundry because his brothers will have similar shirts. She’ll pass his friends in the store and they will look down not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know what to say. She’ll feel his ghost in every football game she sees for the rest of her days. His dad might not say as much, but his step will be permanently slower. Their marriage, their family might never recover.

Let me ask again: What the Fuck, White America?

You know this boy. He’s the kid you pass at the bus stop every morning. He’s the boy who checks out your groceries. In so many ways, he’s every one of our sons. But for a minor chromosomal difference, somebody’s baby has been ripped away. Shouldn’t our level of upset be determined not by our skin color, but rather by some level of basic humanity?

The black community can’t make this right on their own — they’ve been trying for hundreds of years. All of their sound and fury, eloquent though it is, will signify nothing in the end, and that lightning will keep striking in the same place. But you? You can make a difference. White people en masse make a difference all the time. Speak up and say that it isn’t acceptable, just as you do with so many other things. Recognize that hearts are breaking all around you. Give meaning to liberty and justice for all. Give Jordan’s death meaning.

All you have to do is care.

Looking for the Kind in Humankind. Heart currently Code Blue.