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What is the value of a black life? If one could be purchased on the market what would be its market value? If I was to terminate the life of a young black man, would that be considered a loss or a gain? Would that life be mourned to the same extent as the tragic death of a white middle class male? If the authorities were to gun down and kill in broad daylight an unarmed black male, would there be a public outcry? Would the general public take to the streets in protest and demand justice? Would an entire country mourn this death? Would the authorities cease to justify the ‘unlawful’ killings of young black males? Or is a black life dispensable?
Racism isn’t simply an attitude or a set of beliefs; it manifests itself in practices, institutions and structures. Embedded within such manifestations is a deep rooted sense of difference that sustains and imposes an established racial order, which is believed to reflect the laws of nature or the decrees of God. Historically blacks have occupied a subordinate and inferior status to whites; the value of the black life continues to be marginal to that of whites.
In the criminal justice system blacks have historically been subjected to brutal and oppressive police controls. With vast numbers dying in police custody and many more dying at the hands of the police. I have begun to ask why? Why does this happen? Why is this allowed to happen? It seems that although on paper the rights and equalities we have pressed for have been achieve, in reality it is still questionable whether the position of blacks changed. Has equality been achieved? There was a time when the killing of a black man was not a crime at all, as long as the perpetrator was white and had political and public support. The case of Emmett Till may seem like an old example but it is still of relevance. What is the difference between the murder of Emmett Till and the ‘murders’ of Mark Duggan or Michael Brown? I would argue that there is no difference since the victims were all black and of low socio-economic position, all the killings were justified or justifiable, all were unarmed but all died. This is quite ironic, but I now have to ask why?
This is a multifaceted issue. I could offer an exhaustive list as to regards to why blacks are targeted by the police and why blacks occupy a precarious status. Blacks are deemed as dangerous, feckless, criminally inclined and time after time police employ shoot-to-kill tat-tics when engaging with black suspects. I posed the question ‘what is the value of a black life?’ in response to the recent killing of Michael Brown and many others like him. This question is of stark importance and it is a question that needs to be answered. I posed this question to you my reader to begin thinking about; since it is only once we begin to critically engage with this issue can we reach a clear answer and thus a solution.