Hundreds of students walked out of school this week because #BlackLivesMatter
Last Friday, Tony Robinson, Jr., an unarmed Black teenager, was shot and killed by a police officer in Madison, Wisconsin. According to the Associated Press, Officer Matt Kenny forced entry into the apartment Robinson was in, and, after an alleged scuffle, fired out of self-defense. Robinson, 19, died later that evening in the hospital. Kenny, a 12-year police veteran, is now on paid administrative leave, pending investigation by the Department of Justice.
On Monday, hundreds of middle school, high school, and college students gathered at the Wisconsin state capitol building in peaceful protest of another unarmed black man’s life lost to police violence. Most prevalent in the crowd were chants and posters proclaiming “Black Lives Matter,” the social media hashtag turned real-life political movement that so eloquently expresses something that should be obvious — but somehow still isn’t.
Systematic injustice and institutionalized anti-Black racism continue to prevail in the US, and Robinson’s story is eerily and heartbreakingly similar to all too many other young Black men’s stories in this country. And, while Robinson’s uncle, Turin Carter, thinks his nephew’s death was somehow different because Robinson was biracial (he was half white), it’s likely not that simple. (As a mixed race person, I can attest that race and identity are rarely defined by fractions, but often by those around you.)
As Zak Cheney-Rice pointed out on Mic, Wisconsin is the worst state in America to raise a Black child and has the highest percentage of incarcerated Black men in the US (1 in 8, according to NPR). These are terrifying statistics, and, as Cheney-Rice notes, they suggest “a system that disproportionately targets black men and funnels them into the criminal justice system in staggering numbers.”
Especially in light of the recently released report on the disturbing racial bias of the Ferguson police department, it’s more important than ever that we challenge existing infrastructures and work towards fixing a system that is notably broken. Monday’s protest was another powerful show of solidarity in the effort to bring about change. This picture, alone, reveals the staggering number of people unsatisfied with the system as it stands now.
“What’s his name?” the protestors chanted. “Tony Robinson.”
Because it is imperative we not forget Robinson or others caught up in a spiral of racial inequality — that we not become disillusioned and forget that within this narrative of police violence which we continue to see over and over again, lives have been lost and those lives have value. Just like Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and so many others, Tony Robinson, Jr.’s life had worth. All Black lives matter — and we need to remember that and put an end to racial injustice in this country.