Whose life matters?

T.A. Barnhart

It’s just a couple of hours after the announcement that Darren Wilson gets off free for the murder of Michael Brown — and yes, that’s how I see it. An armed cop against a kid with no gun, and he blew him away. And in the aftermath of the prosecutor announcing that his grand jury would not bring any charges against Wilson, many are asking, “Do black lives matter?” While I understand why that question matters, and why it matters tonight, in the big picture, it’s not the right question.

The right question is, “Whose life matters?”

Every day, white kids die and no one gives a damn. White kids are shot with guns – by their parents, by their siblings, by themselves – and our country does fuck-all about it.

Every day, white kids die of preventable diseases. Some are killed by idiot parents; some are killed by government policies that sanction the slow, torturous death of starvation. White kids are beaten to death. They are slaughtered in so many different ways, every day.

Each day, white men by the dozens take a gun and end their struggle with depression, anger, substance abuse, and mental illness, spurned by a medical establishment that gives them no regard.

Every day, white people die in hundreds of stupid and easily preventable ways, but our corporate overlords have an obligation to profits that makes human lives expendable. Another item on the ledger sheet.

It’s not just white lives that are disposed of daily in such horrific manner. It’s white, brown, black, red, yellow, and every other shade possible of human skin color. Some peoples in some places – Native Americans on their reservations, for example – are more likely to die of certain causes. Some people in other places – a black teenager walking on the street at night in just about any damn town – invite the fear and bigotry of law officers to manifest a justice system that is no such thing.

The question shouldn’t be, do black lives matter? Of course they do, otherwise the outcry over Michael’s murder wouldn’t be as loud, long and anguished as it is. Millions of white Americans actually do care about black lives. Millions of white Americans care about all lives, as do millions of Americans of every ethnic background.

All lives matter. The human race just happens to value other things as well, and that gives too many people an excuse to kill and to condone killing. Today, an unjust set of laws in the hands of a prosector who didn’t want to indict a white cop condones the unjustifiable murder of a teenager with black skin. That death happened months ago, and today we learn that there will be no justice for Michael Brown and his family.

There will be no justice for thousands of other Americans who die today because not enough of us give a damn to do anything about it. Black men and white men have been gunned down by cops in Portland without justification and without justice. People of every ethnic background will suffer poverty, deprivation, dehumanization, illness, homelessness, and death in Portland; and we won’t do much about it. Rage against the injustice in Ferguson. Lament how awful life can be. Decry the lack of justice in America. But don’t actually do something meaningful.

Tonight, in Washington, DC, President Obama posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two white men and one black, murdered 50 years ago in Mississippi as they worked for civil rights. How bizarre, and maybe how appropriate, that they were honored on the same day Darren Wilson’s crime was washed away by a prosecutor in Missouri.

The murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner helped lead to the passing of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act. Let’s hope Michael Brown’s murder results in more than anger, despair, and injustice.

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