It doesn't matter if Jacob Blake committed a crime

Too many have implied today that Black people should be perfect if they want to avoid being executed in the street

Burning cars in Wisconsin after police shoot reportedly unarmed black man

On Sunday, a 29-year-old Black man named Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times by a police officer as he entered the door of an SUV — reportedly in front of his three children, ages three, five, and eight. Blake’s friends and family have said that he is out of surgery and in a stable condition in an intensive care unit.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the shooting took place, protests against police brutality have yet again engulfed another city, as Black people continue to attempt to make their voices heard by those in power.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention — with the theme "Land of Promise" — Donald Trump Jr and prominent right-wing commentator Andy Ngo took to Twitter to use unrelated past charges allegedly filed against Blake to justify the shooting.

“Jacob Blake, the man shot by police in Kenosha, Wisc., has a history of assaulting police. He also has past charges for domestic abuse & a sex crime. There's a warrant for his arrest. BLM rioters are currently destroying the city to avenge the shooting,” Ngo tweeted, a sentiment that Trump Jr then retweeted.

I won’t waste time litigating the details of the previous charges against Blake, even though there are a myriad of logical fallacies in Ngo’s reasoning and a myriad of reasons why those past charges do not excuse what happened to him. To do so would be to fall into the trap that Black people are constantly ensnared in, the trap that says we must earn our right to live by being angelic, inhuman, unmoving. Even when we are seemingly perfect — like Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man and talented musician who died by cardiac arrest after being placed in a chokehold by Aurora, Colorado police — our lives are still the state’s to claim. I have no interest in making myself hoarse by repeating the same argument we’ve been having for years: that we do not deserve to be executed, no matter what we may have done.

Because make no mistake about it: Black people are being executed in the streets by police. We’re being sold into slavery via the prison-industrial complex. We are being subjected to a slow genocide by a country that never meant for us to survive after we had fulfilled our use by picking their cotton and planting their rice and stripping their sugarcane. Black immigrants are being locked away in concentration camps.

These words I’m using — “execution,” “slavery,” “genocide,” “concentration camp” — may seem extreme. You might disagree with them, or say that they're inaccurate. But I say that now, more than ever, we must start calling things by their names, and stop getting lost in the technicalities. As Black Americans, we are under the control of a government that even long-time skeptics are now calling "fascist". The horrors that stole sleep from white people after Donald Trump’s election in 2016 are here now, screaming and flaying us with spittle. And for Black people, these horrors already existed.

Too many right-wing people in positions of power seem to think that my people — whether we’re burning down cities in righteous fury or holding hands peacefully while praying to whatever God we serve — are deserving of execution, no matter where we are, who we are or what we’re doing.

In America, the punishment for petty crime or even assault — and the charges against Blake may not even have merit, but again, that’s besides the point — is not execution. But in America, the punishment for being Black and daring to have a beating heart, daring to walk this earth alive and breathing… for this, the punishment is all too often execution.

We ask people to recognize that Black Lives Matter. And after a summer of writing about Black death constantly, I have come to realize that I think everyone knows Black lives matter, especially the state. I think they know it in every pore, every bone, every drop of blood. They know our lives have power, that we have power; that the day we defeat these oppressors, the world will never be the same. They are more aware of the significance of our lives than we will ever know. That is why they snuff us out in front of our children. That is why they steal the air from our lungs. Because they’re terrified our holy rage has the power to bring down an empire.

To people like Ngo and Trump Jr, I say: “We will defeat you.” To all the Republicans gathering tonight to celebrate their stolen land of promise, I say: “We will take back everything you have stolen from us.”

And to each and every single Black person who feels as though their very life warrants an attempted or completed execution at the hands of the state, I say: “You don’t have to prove that your life matters anymore. The only thing to do, now, is to win.”

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