Last weekend, while browsing Twitter hashtags, I learned about the tragic murder of a young, unarmed teen named Zachary Hammond who was shot twice in the back by police while on a date.
Before even investigating the details, my exasperation of witnessing the careless extinction of black lives made me audibly sigh as I reluctantly clicked on the link. But after looking at a couple posts, I was shocked to realize that Hammond wasn’t black at all — he was white — and apparently his ice-cream date was actually a planned, coordinated drug bust.
How an unarmed young man ended up shot in the back for several ounces of marijuana is troubling, and my heart goes out to his family for this tragic and senseless death. But as I mourn alongside his family, I recently read comments by the family’s lawyer, Eric Bland, that are not only problematic, they are downright infuriating. He told the Washington Post:
[…] Unfortunately, the media and our government officials have treated the death of an unarmed white teenager differently than they would have if this were a death of an unarmed black teen. The hypocrisy that has been shown toward this is really disconcerting. The issue should never be what is the color of the victim. The issue should be: Why was an unarmed teen gunned down in a situation where deadly force was not even justified?
I have no idea what Bland thought he was achieving with these comments, but his bullshit bastardization of the truth is disgusting and predicated on lies and falsehoods. The truth is, the real reason white victims of police brutality don’t get enough outrage is because the majority of white people are too busy condemning black and brown victims for their own assaults and deaths, ignoring the racialized elements of unnecessary force, and heaping praise on murderous police officers to realize that state-sanctioned violence is a problem that affects us all.
Bland is asserting that the real tragedy here is his belief that white media and non-white people are tacitly complicit in a scheme to use the #BlackLivesMatter theme to erase the importance of non-black lives. This is his cowardly way of underhandedly stating that white people are now the victims of racism because their pain and suffering does not register the same national attention that a young, black boy’s would.
He punctuates this point by using the word “hypocrisy,” as if he’s revealing a long-standing history of racial double standards that put the deaths of white boys and girls far below the lives of any minorities.
That might be the most hilarious, anti-academic, ahistorical nonsense ever uttered by a white male in American history.
From a legitimate historical perspective, Zachary Hammond’s death is not really being treated much differently than black lives have been since the end of slavery. Early this year, the Equal Justice Initiative released a report detailing their discovery of almost 4,000 lynchings that were conducted in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950.
That information is coming to light this year, 2015, 65 years after their last investigated lynching, which goes to tell you how easily their lives were taken and erased. During that time period, the main reason black pain was brought to life was due to our collective ability to demonstrate, protest and resist white supremacy.
In 1917, 3,000 white men descended upon East St. Louis, a predominantly black area, and began rioting and assaulting black people, buildings housing mostly black people and black businesses due to fears that black men were coming to take their manufacturing jobs.
The riots escalated into arson and murder, resulting in about 6,000 black folks being left homeless and an estimated death toll of between 100-200 black people (which is a hotly contested figure). The lives of those murdered black men, women and children were honored and brought to light by a silent march of 10,000 blacks down Fifth Avenue in New York. And therein lies the long-lasting legacy of propagating the importance of black lives in America: public black resistance.
Contrary to Bland’s ridiculous ideology, the reason why the larger black community and the media are made aware that there is even something to be outraged about is the diligence and bravery of activists who bring these unreported and under-reported acts of brutality to light. Hell, if it wasn’t for the continued activism of black folks, black bloggers and black organizations who demanded accountability after Trayvon Martin was killed, that story would have never became a national plot line.
Days after Martin was savagely murdered, his death aroused no more public outrage than the death of Zachary Hammond. Michael Brown’s death only received media coverage because fed-up Ferguson residents would not simply retreat into their homes after watching his public execution. The idea that black lives receive immediate, special, precious and fair treatment after we’re murdered is simply false. If we don’t raise hell, another black body is buried with little-to-no coverage and little to-no outrage.
But there is one important difference that should be noted about how Hammond’s death is being reported versus the reporting done when black men and women are killed by police: He hasn’t had his entire name dragged through the mud. Despite being busted in a set up drug buy, news outlets have not called him a thug, delved deep into his criminal past or even used the phrase “known to police.” Had he been black, Hammond would’ve been murdered twice: First, having his body taken by the police, and second, having his character assassinated by the press.
Bland’s comments are yet another attack on the Black Lives Matter movement. What he doesn’t understand is that we have now entered the era of unapologetic Blackness, where black people have absolutely zero requirement to hide our unflinching love for our collective race and our desire to see white supremacy toppled to the ground.
It is in no way, shape or form our responsibility to include or protect the lives of people from other communities, because they have been endowed with the same access and ability to propagate their own issues as well. But, it should be duly noted that the main people who have been speaking out on behalf of Zachary Hammond have been black journalists and black activists, more so than anyone else of any other color.
If white people want outrage for the death of Zachary Hammond, then make noise and try to achieve public change. But that would require you to stop victim-blaming murdered suspects of excessive police violence. That would require you to stop crowd funding murderous officers.
That would require you to stop blindly and unilaterally defending police officers. And that would require you to do the hardest thing of all: admitting that black folks haven’t been lying or exaggerating when we’ve said that there is a real problem with policing in America.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site ThisIsYourConscience.com. He’s an author of the book “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached via Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.