I wish I didn’t have to tell some of you that victim-blaming when a Black person is murdered by police is a huge no. That it doesn’t matter if they were on the honor roll, or smoked weed sometimes, or were going to college, or what brand of hoodie they wore, or even if they spent time in jail at some point. That the right to walk down the street without being a target for murder by the police isn’t a right one should have to prove themselves worthy of. That we should all just have that right by virtue of being human beings.
When you’re Black, you don’t always get the benefit of being seen as a human being, though. Black people are seen as ‘up to no good’ by default. The truth is that our lives, like anyone else’s, are filled with good choices as well as mistakes, achievements we’re proud of as well as missed opportunities. Successes. Failures. Just like everyone else. But what’s also true is that we, as marginalized people, get fewer do-overs. The system is rigged to punish us at every possible opportunity. Longer prison sentences compared to whites who commit the same crimes and disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion for even Black pre-schoolers attests to this.
If we were to talk about a victim’s past, we would have to talk about it in a context of oppression. But, you know what? We don’t need to talk about it at all. Because it is irrelevant to issue of their victimization. Just like bringing up a victim’s past to justify her rape is wrong, bringing up a victim’s past to justify his murder by police is also wrong. Yes, even when those people are Black.