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Societal The Word 3 minute read

Numbness is Dangerous

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Anthony Lamar Smith: do you know his name? My guess is that most people don’t. We know Michael Brown, another Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer in St. Louis a little over 3 years go; but do we know Anthony Lamar Smith?

Or has my worst fear occurred? Have we gone from feeling genuine collective outrage in the Black community when a Black man or woman was unnecessarily killed by cops without any repercussions like with Trayvon Martin; to feeling numb.  Has the pattern of a cop killing a Black person, being indicted, and then being found innocent of any wrongdoing – irrespective of damning video evidence – become such an expected part of our society that now we only pay it only limited attention?

Has the mainstream media repeatedly televised Black man after Black man being assaulted or gunned down to such a degree that we no longer need to turn away or cover our eyes anymore?  Did they rerun Phillando Castille being shot 7 times, the blood stain on his shirt rapidly growing and changing shape as his fiancée screamed and cried for mercy; or show the image of Michael Brown lying dead in the middle of the street, so many times that we are no longer shocked?  Have we been intentionally desensitized?

Have our hopes been drowned by the minutes we’ve spent in front of our televisions waiting for the verdict of a police officer who has needlessly killed a Black man—only to hear — every.damn.time — “not guilty?”  Did our hope take its last breath? We can’t breathe.

Perhaps the numbing of Black America was intentional.  We never see murdered White victims on television.  Perhaps, it is believed that if we see it enough, it becomes normal to us; so consequently fewer people will show up at rallies and we won’t be so unified.

This outcome is what I‘ve been most afraid of. Outrage bonds us; apathy separates us.  If we stop worrying about “us” holistically and collectively and return to simply trying to protect our smaller circle of loved ones, we will ultimately fail to progress.  We will give our children the talk; move to safer neighborhoods; try to get them in the best schools and still be scared.  We will be scared because we know – deep down inside – we know the sad truth: our men aren’t safe from the police regardless of what we as mothers and fathers do.  We need change.  We need each other.  We need to be outraged.  We need to know his name: Anthony Lamar Smith.

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