So late last night Antonio Martin was shot by Berkeley Police in Berkeley, Missouri only a few miles from Ferguson. The officers said that Martin pulled a gun on them and that is why he was shot. I am not here to debate if Martin had a gun or not or propose any conspiracy theories concerning this issue in light of all the recent killings of unarmed black men. What I am here to say is that Antonio Martin’s life still matter. If anyone has seen the video of Antonio Martin’s mother arriving on the scene, you know that he mattered to someone. So many times, members of the black community buy into the respectability politics that a black person needs to be near perfect in order for their life to matter. Many comments on black news sites on the issue have dismissed Antonio’s death as a mistake of his own doing without realizing the larger message that gun or not he was still human. We saw in the days following the death of Mike Brown that black people tried to emphasize that he was going to college the following week to show why he deserved to live. The video released of Mike Brown allegedly stealing cigarillos and the New York Times article that said Mike Brown was “no angel” show the black community how quickly our deaths can be seen as justifiable. This does not included the testimony by Wilson where Brown was referred to as a demon/superhuman being who ran through bullets (Has anyone else noticed how running towards the bullets still makes no sense??). Trayvon was perhaps one example where although he was killed by a vigilante, the mere existence of marijuana in his system legitimized his death despite the fact that white teenagers use marijuana proportionately to African Americans. These recent examples do not include the men during the Civil Rights Movement who were seen as “evil communists” or “godless” for simply wanting equality.
So in light of today’s events and the aftermath that ensued in Berkeley last night, yes Antonio Martin’s life mattered. It is a curious thing that many so called Christians so quickly turned their back on Antonio’s family considering that all life comes from God and therefore are sacred. Someone may say, “But you don’t have to be a cop to make these types of decisions in a split second,” and I will answer that they are right but we have seen how the death of even armed people is segregated as many whites have aimed guns at law enforcement and luved. For instance Cliven Bundy had a standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents where supporters of his gathered at his ranch with their guns to protect his property from the government encroachment, he was even heralded as a hero. (Later a man and women who were supporters of Bundy would kill police officers in Las Vegas). There is also this case where a 46 year old man was practically waving his gun around in public but was taken down with one shot and lived. Let us not forget that the Aurora shooter who killed 12 people but was taken into custody where he was able to stand trial. It seems in these days black bodies are not able to make it to the court room for a fair trial. Armed or not Antonio Martin will not be alive to see his family again. His mother will never be able to talk to her son again. We can easily dismiss Martin as a thug because he allegedly had a gun but he mattered to someone just like we all do. Yes all lives do matter in the larger scope of things and that is why we should not dehumanize anyone. This dehumanization is partially the reason why the Prison Industrial Complex has been able to grow unchecked for so long. Our disregard for prisoners has not helped to bring change to our lives but only worsens the societal fabric as former inmates struggle to find honest jobs and for a suffer from a recidivism rate of 67.5% (2002 report). Even Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s life mattered because despite the tragedy he caused, he was human. A human who did not receive the proper mental treatment or guidance throughout his life (which only highlights another problem in America concerning how do we better identify Ismaaiyls and help them before it is too late). We cannot get so wrapped up in particulars that we forget that life itself is sacred. For when we stop caring for the basic humanity of a person we lose our own humanity.