The midterms are over and the news is filled with Washington’s squabbles. Who will be Speaker of the House? Will Hillary run again? With all the wonderful seats flipped what new paradise awaits us?
Allow me to tell you a story.
It’s another long night working security at Manny’s Blue Room. Cold outside. Might snow soon. The music is loud and you really would prefer to be home, but a smile seems to fill your mind. Your 9-month-old son Tristan is there, giggling and cooing like he usually does. You breathe a long sigh. Christmas is right around the corner. This is for him and your wife Avontae. Hell, there’s another bun in the oven so you’ll need a new crib, new clothes.
Who knew having a family was so expensive?
At least the job is easy. Most drunks or loudmouths only need to see you and they get the picture. Check ID’s, walk a few girls to their car. Tonight you’d asked several drunk men to leave the bar. Easy enough. Besides, you were scheduled to play the organ at church this Sunday morning. You’d have your fun then. Money was okay. Life may not have been perfect but you at least had a hold on things.
That is until you heard the gunshots.
Screams now, people moving and running away. Absolute panic. You notice it’s one of the men you asked to leave. He’s drunk and shooting wildly in the crowd. You see a bartender get hit. Your heart feels like it’s about to jump out of your chest. You think about your kids, your wife. Tables are being knocked over. You could run. You could run home right now. Nobody would blame you. The money wasn’t worth risking your life.
Something else lurks between your panicked heart and rushing blood. Something deep inside that says you can stop this guy. That if you run people are going to die. The gun shots keep coming. You think about that smile. What would you want your son to do? How would he feel if you left these people to be slaughtered?
You are the only body in the crowd rushing towards the danger. Pistol in hand. A struggle ensues. Every muscle in your body feels like it’s at the height of its strength, terror now turned into total determination. You overpower him easily, have him on his back. Your pistol is right up against him.
You could fire. You think about that. Nobody would blame you. You don’t know if he killed anybody. This guy could have killed you, this drunk piece of shit. Taken you away from your family.
Your finger is on the trigger. But you don’t pull it.
You want to do the right thing. Let the police handle it, everybody is saying they can see the lights. People are thanking you. You’re surprised at how well you’ve gotten ahold of everything. You stopped him without killing him, even though he had a gun. You wonder for a moment how the police so often can’t do the same. Aren’t they better trained and paid then you are? You had always wanted to be a cop, and after tonight you think you really might go for it.
You liked to protect people. Keep them safe. And you were damn good at it too.
The police arrive. You wait for them to tell you what to do. You’re wearing a sweatshirt and hat that says “security.”
You hear the crowd around you, unsure why panic seems to have seized their throats.
Suddenly you hear several loud bangs and white heat shoots through your side. At first you can’t understand what’s happening. Until you fall over. Until it becomes harder to breathe. Until your realize that tingling feeling you get when your foot falls asleep is actually lack of blood, because now you’re feeling it all over. Your breathing becomes more shallow. You think about Avontae and Tristan. You know you’re going to die. Twenty six years old and now you were going to die. A tear rolls down your eye as you think about the baby you’ll never know. You were just trying to do the right thing. Please forgive me Avontae. I was just trying to do the right thing.
You look up to see who else had rushed in. You must have missed a shooter. Your eyes fall on the uniform.
It’s a cop. His gun, still smoking, is pointed at you.
And your last thoughts are fear for Tristan, born into a world where a black man saving lives is still seen as worthy of lynching.
The officer in question won’t have his name revealed. He is a white male who has worked with the department for about four years. The officer is assigned to the patrol division and also leads a regional swat team.
He should know better. And he does. His training didn’t fail him. He did exactly what he wanted to do.
He took one look at Jemel Roberson on top of that shooter and didn’t need to think.
Here was a criminal. Another no-good “thug” ruining Chicago. Another black man causing a mess he’d have to clean up. A nobody. A non-person.
And so he killed the security guard Jemel Roberson.
Jemel Roberson was the shining example of a “good guy with a gun.” The NRA, an organization that claims to voraciously defend gun owners and who came up with the term, won’t spare two words for our hero nor will they condemn his killer. Jemel Roberson should inspire all of us. He saved lives under fire, with nothing but a little bit of training and a heart filled with compassion. He is an example of all that is good and righteous.
And because he is black his life, and his sacrifice, means nothing.
The Chicago Tribune covers the story, making sure to inform us “Manny’s Blue Room Lounge was not authorized to serve alcohol, since its state liquor license expired on Sept. 30 and had not been renewed, according to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.” This has no bearing on Jemel Roberson’s murder, other than simply being a cheap attempt to note the “dangerous” and “illegal” nature of the lives Jemel Roberson died defending. The Capitalist press has decided he deserved it. There is no amount of voting that can change that editorial board.
The same society that eagerly pestered our hero Jemel Roberson to vote can’t seem to figure out how to stop him from being lynched. The same idealistic talking heads on MSNBC who shrilly cried how much his voice mattered grow quiet when his is permanently silenced. The Democrats will say a few words, but the news cycle will rush towards more important stories. They have elections to win. Jemel Roberson is dead. Dead folks can’t vote and lord knows we need to “reach across the aisle” to racists.
There are no new policies. There are no changes. There are no emergency laws. There is no nationwide election. There is no vote that could have stopped this. No political party gives two shits about his death and a crumbling social safety net will barely protect the family he leaves behind. No conference will stop the bloodshed, no gun control can curb the murders. A white school gets shot up? Pandemonium. Screams at capitol hill. Something must be done! Think of the children!
The white children. Not Jemel Robinson’s. His children must learn instead to accept the inevitable, and of course the new gun laws that will put them in a cage for the audacity to defend themselves against a society that wants them dead.
The limp-wristed and syphilitic attempt by this racial caste system to quiet the cries of the broken-hearted is laughable: strap cameras on cops. It hasn’t slowed the slaughter. When there is no recording, black victims are thought to have done something wrong. When there is a recording, black victims are thought to have done something wrong off camera. The only thing these cameras have done is given America a new television show where an entire section of the country cheers from the comfort of their homes as cops body slam people with a little bit of weed in their pocket.
No matter what Jemel Roberson did he was up for execution because his life means nothing in the United States. And nobody really has a plan to change that. It’s not something you can vote away.
Much more pressing matters are always on hand it seems. Black lives are always told to take a backseat. We will get around to them, sometime, after Hillary finally gets elected or the worldwide revolution just around the corner finally kicks off. There is always some new crisis. Some new reason to put the dreams away and go vote.
And in the meantime? More slowing heartbeats. More tears. More dying breaths struggling to murmur the name of a loved one, in vain hope that somehow she’d know just how much you loved her.
Two gasps. Then silence. Then the Democrats cry in joy that they’ll finally get Trump’s tax returns.
There will be a bit of outrage of course. It will pass. We will be told next election is too important to worry about such trivial things as lynchings and police brutality. It is your duty to vote, even if many black lives never extend to the point where they can witness anybody they vote for take office. If anybody asks they’ll be told we need the House and the Senate before we can change things. If that happens then we’ll need the Presidency. If that happens we’ll need the Supreme Court.
And if that happens? Well, these things take time you understand. The Democrats will promise to reach across the aisle and come up with “business-friendly alternatives.” Jemel Roberson is but one individual. How can his life be measured against the astounding success of gay drone operators blowing villages to bits on the command of female generals, or the most diverse and sexually liberated collection of CEO’s writing laws and making record profits? People have waited a long time for that kind of progress. What gives you the right to derail it?
And so it goes, another black body fallen on pavement like the snowflakes so common for Chicago this time of year. They pile up into great mountains and nobody gives them much of a thought. Part of the landscape, something normal. Permitted only to exist until they become an inconvenience. Then they get plowed out of the way.
(New Age of Slavery by Patrick Campbell. You can support the artist here.)