A month ago, I‟d gone to the hairdresser‟s in Los Angeles. She seemed much more reserved and withdrawn this visit but I didn‟t question her. After some time had passed, she opened up and shared her very personal, unfortunate and sudden plans to travel to Sacramento later that evening after work. She continued sharing the heart wrenching story that her cousin‟s only daughter, 18 and a male, also 18, were shot and killed by a man who was illegally growing marijuana on his property. When discovered, the teens ran and the killer chased and shot them as they fled. He then stood over her cousin‟s daughter and shot her again execution style; the young woman‟s forearm showed evidence of the defensive bullet wounds on her forearm. How so, so very sad. The suspect happened to be Asian. The two teens were Black. I searched for words but found none as she kept repeating, “I just want to give my cousin a hug.”
She and I began to brainstorm and I thought, “Although these two teens may have committed trespass, this did not warrant shooting them to death.” Trespass is punishable by a fine at worst and never by death in the eyes of the law. Here was a man who himself was committing the crime of “illegal weed grow.” Yet he was blinded by his own impunity and racism as not to see these two youths as human but, rather, as much less. According to police, their bodies were found in the street and, thus, not on his property when he shot them down dead like animals of prey as they fled. Yet if they were animals, especially dogs, many people would call for his immediate conviction for the same heinous acts. Wasn’t Michael Vick convicted and imprisoned for much less?
We can all agree the teens should not have been there and I wish to God that they weren’t. This heinous act of explainable violence happened to occur in the same week as the 25th Anniversary of the Rodney King verdict. I am reminded of Latasha Harlins, the 15 year old Black girl, also unarmed, who was murdered by a Korean merchant while simply purchasing an orange juice 13 days after the Rodney King videotape in 1991. The merchant, Soon Ja Du, accused Harlins of stealing although she handed her the $2. The video also shows that Latasha was attacked by Du and as she turned to leave, Du shot her to death.
Suffice it to say we all have witnessed or engaged in some form of mischief as a teenager. After all, which of us has raised or is raising a child who hasn’t? And which of us can say we were flawless or perfect as teenagers? As Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7. When you think about it, there‟s just no room for passing judgment. The often unfortunate invincibility and immortality of the youth psyche seems innate and timeless. They‟re the stuff exemplified in great American classics and icons, such as “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean. So why are African American teens not allowed the luxury of making mistakes or even being human without someone shooting them to death?
Sadly, so many of our (Black) teenagers are not given the luxury of a second chance; rather, they are struck down in the midst of their youth and seen as less than worthy or even hated, typically at the hands of someone who looks like them. Hence, the cycle and manifestation of self loathing, or the “I ain’t sh*t which means you ain‟t sh*t” mindset. Yet when Black on Black crime occurs, the suspect, when arrested, is tried, convicted and sentenced. As the hairdresser aptly noted, “If Blacks kill anybody, Black, White or Other, we‟re going to jail.” However, when the victim is Black and the perpetrator is other than Black or a police officer, justice or punishment is very slow if at all. There must first be an outcry, march, candlelight vigil or some other form of protest. This emphasizes why the Black Lives Matter movement is still absolutely necessary. Many people just do not otherwise get it if at all. The senseless, inhumane and inexcusable killing our Black teen boys and now girls by anybody as if no regard for their lives must stop.
But many Americans are desensitized despite the seemingly countless videos of Blacks beaten, kicked, shot, tasered and choked at the hands of police and others. Far too many people still question the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement. Just think back to the Rodney King verdict 25 years ago. The police were acquitted although they beat him mercilessly for the entire world to witness.
I am also reminded of what I heard someone say years ago: “When immigrants first arrive in the United States, the first word they‟re taught is Nigger. It would appear so. The Asian man in the present case, who had no hesitation about killing these two unarmed Black teenagers, suddenly could not speak or comprehend English and, with the assistance of an interpreter, appeared in court. Yet despite his sudden lack of understanding the English language, he knew that in the Unites States, Black Lives do not Matter so much so that he felt justified to execute these two young people before they even had a chance at life.
Not long ago, we all saw over and over in the media Dr. David Dao being dragged off of a United Airlines plane at Chicago O‟Hare‟s airport by security. Across the globe, Chinese people expressed their belief that he was targeted because he was Chinese. As terrible as the incident was, Dr. Doa was not killed but merely injured. Nonetheless, an international outcry ensued, accompanied by a swift apology and settlement by United which gave credence that Asian lives matter. But when it comes to Black lives, we always need to take a stand as if there‟s a lack of justification for the outrage. This should not be.
For example, in researching this story, I was unable to find much more than a blurb which basically said that, “On April 23, at 4:06AM, shots were fired. Police arrived to find two persons in the street and to a house where there was „an illegal weed grow,‟ which is a house converted to grow weed.” If dogs or horses were shot down in the street, America would be outraged. Heck, I‟ve seen stories about animal abuse, abandonment and rescue that ran longer in the news. Here, there is no mention of the victims‟ names. If the suspect instead of Asian was Black and the victims were White or Asian for that matter, it would have made the headlines.
Korean merchants in Los Angeles during the time of the Rodney King police beating profiled, mistreated and abused the very people who patronized and supported their businesses: Blacks. And the Korean merchant who shot and killed young Miss Harlins, although found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, received no jail time. The White female judge, Joyce A. Karlin, only sentenced her to five years probation sparking an outrage. Now, 26 years later, let‟s see how this killing of an 18 year old female teen by an Asian plays out. My condolences and deepest sympathies. It‟s just too unthinkable to fathom: The four brothers of this slain teenage young lady, just weeks away from graduating high school, honored their sister‟s memory in white suits with her picture on the back framed with, “My Sister‟s Keeper.” RIP Ahjanique Hodges.