A recent Washington Post article titled “Why white people need to see the searing new African American Museum” featured the image of Mamie Till leaning over her fourteen year old son, Emmett Till’s casket. After he was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered during a visit with relatives who lived in the South, Till decided to have an open casket funeral. She said, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.”
But, how many of these images and now videos have we already seen? We have hash tags now. And yet, we cannot look away. We cannot look away because we need to see that words have consequences. We cannot look away because we need to see what our words can do. They are not just nasty words, politically incorrect words, inappropriate words, words not to be used in polite company but they are killing words. Literal death sentences.
They are humanity- denying words for both persons involved. Killing persons because of the social coloring of their skin or using words that reduce the value of their human life are inexcusable. It is preying upon and hunting down persons who fit a description, who look like trouble.
A Tulsa police officer witnessing the scene from a helicopter can be heard saying, “That looks like a bad dude” before an unarmed Terence Crutcher was shot and killed. It should be noted that Mr. Crutcher was not a suspect in any crime but was stopped on the road due to car trouble. Officer Betty Shelby has since been charged with manslaughter after a review of dash camera footage and her interview. But, this does not mean that justice will be served since Freddie Gray’s death was ruled a homicide and yet, not a single police officer involved was convicted.
So, the next time you see a racially motivated crime, don’t put your head down or simply shake your head. And please, don’t look away– because some of us can’t. We can’t look away because they fit the description of a family member. We cannot look away when they are our son or daughter, our father or mother, our spouse or friend.