Justice For Chavis Carter, Judgment On This Nation

Departing for the moment from the various examples of white privilege run rampant here in Moscow, I’ll turn now to the tragic death of another young Black man at the hands of cops, wanna-be cops, security guards, and those others who purport to keep white America safe while unleashing horror on the African-American community and its sons.

You know what?  I’m gonna scratch “tragic.”  It’s tragic when any young man dies.  This is criminal.  Because if lefthanded, handcuffed, twice-searched 21-year-old Chavis Carter wasn’t shot in the right temple yesterday by one of the Jonesboro, Arkansas, cops who arrested him, then he was shot while in their custody — in their charge, as their responsibility — by someone else.  They are either utterly accountable for his murder or accountable for negligence if someone else murdered him.  To suggest suicide, however, is nauseating.

Let’s go over it again:  Twice searched for weapons, handcuffed, the left-handed Carter, busted initially for suspicion of marijuana possession, or marijuana-baggy possession, was further detained on a warrant out of Mississippi, where he lived.  They loaded him into the back of the squad car and then heard a “metallic” sound — the sound, they said, of the apparently preternaturally agile young man killing himself. 

Over a weed bust.  His mother, who knew him best, says he wasn’t suicidal.  I didn’t know him, but I don’t need to to be more than a little suspicious.  From my own position of unearned, at-birth privilege, I know this country.

I have, as any reader knows, two sons — white men, one 19, the other, 23.  They have, I imagine, used marijuana once or twice (not nearly as much as I did at the younger one’s age, I’ll add).  It’s illegal, it’s not a good idea, my strong belief in its legalization notwithstanding, and maybe I’m wrong.  But I don’t worry that if they get arrested for anything — anything they’ve done or merely been suspected of having done — that they’ll get killed, beaten, or otherwise abused while in custody.  I don’t worry that when they go into Wal-Mart, a frustrated, self-important guard will follow them out of some bizarre notion that dark skin lends itself to a predilection for theft.  And I don’t worry that, like Trayvon Martin, they’ll be shot by a twisted manifestation of racialist-fueled testosterone while walking home with Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea in their parents’ own neighborhood.

My sons are men of sterling reputation, and that matters not at all here.  The reason I’ve been spared these worries is because of the reality of sinful white privilege (note to those who want a comma between “sinful” and “white privilege”:  None needed; all white privilege is sinful, and so its use here isn’t as a descriptive or modifier).  The cops’ hands-off approach to my kids isn’t because of their good character, just as the immediate suspicion with which young Black men are met by law enforcement has nothing to do with their own good character, bad character, or anything else.  Having Black skin in this country, if you’re a young man, is apparently sufficient these days and in years and decades and centuries past to mark you as a target.  The life of a young Black man isn’t worth much to too many whites, and you don’t have to pull the trigger or even actively applaud those who do to be guilty. 

In the face of the noxious stench of white privilege, the silence of the privileged is applause enough. 

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