I did a lot of stupid stuff at 15 years old. Egging someone’s home or car was less likely to be on that list than, say using my student ID to buy wine coolers and Cisco or cutting school to window shop, but it is wholly conceivable that the right person asking me to go out on a prank mission could have convinced me to do it.
A 15-year-old is an extremely young person. And even when they start doing “grown” things, many girls and boys at that age are just large children, just a hair away from bursting into tears and asking for one’s mommy.
For that reason, the idea that Adrian Broadway has been cut down before she could even think about going to the ballot box for being ‘guilty’ of something as insignificant and correctable as covering someone’s car with eggs, leaves and mayonnaise is horrifying and beyond reason. The Arkansas teen died this weekend after the subject of a silly teen prank emerged from his home with a gun and began shooting.
Willie Noble, who allegedly fired on the car carrying Adrian Broadway and five other teens, is no better than Michael Dunn. On some level, he may even be worse. Whether he adopted the White supremacist attitude of a Dunn and feels that Black teens are just little thugs (he wouldn’t hardly be the only one of us to believe such a thing) or not, he failed at one of the most important things we are tasked with as Black people: viewing our children as worthy of our protection. Feeling compelled, if not required, to protect our children even at their worst moments. Noble is the father of at least one Black child—a child who allegedly committed a similar prank last Halloween. How could he fire a gun into a car full of kids?
The 48-year-old has been charged with one count of first degree murder, one count of a terroristic act and five counts of aggravated assault. And while its inherently more likely that he will be convicted for the slaying than Dunn or George Zimmerman were for killing teen boys in Florida, this does nothing to bring Adrian Broadway back. And we are still left to wonder: what kind of monster goes out of his way to hurt children?
I’d be lying if I said I’d never been pissed off, as an adult, by the actions of young teenagers. They can be loud, obnoxious, disrespectful. However, I have never felt the ire or rage towards them that one typically would hold towards an adult. No matter how trifling or silly they can be, I always recognize them for what they are: large children. In fact, even when they piss me off, I feel a sense of responsibility to protect them more often than not. This approach to the younger members of my community (or White kids, or Asian Kids, or Latino/a ones) predates the birth of my own child. It is inate in me and I question its absence in others.
The deaths of young men like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Jonathan Ferrell cause many of us to lament the lack of safe space in the world for our boys—something that is not new or unfamiliar, and has perhaps simply had a resurgence in media coverage in recent years. But for those of us who have been paying attention, we know that our girls are not much safer in this world. We have lost Myeshia Turner and her 3-year-old daughter, Damiah, to a still-unknown assailant, Rekia Boyd to an irresponsible off duty cop, Renisha McBride to a possibly bigoted homeowner. In those last two cases, one can't ignore the perceived threat these young women posed to their killers. The absurdity of the armed needing to chop down the unarmed, or else.
While there are many boys and men in my life who I love and worry over, I am the mother to an actual daughter. She is not a talking point or hypothetical cultural commentary. She is a flesh and blood person, weighing the sum of 21 pounds, plus the entirety of my heart. Right now, I can protect her as well as I can protect myself when we are together, and with every prayer I have when she’s with her sitter or her dad. The older she gets, the larger her world will be. And there will be shopping malls, schools, public transit and, most terrifyingly, cars operated by teenagers. For as horrific the threat of drive-bys and mass shootings/domestic terror attacks and bias attacks on LGBT youth, there is this this view of our kids—-male and female—that is just as frightening. The view that our children are not a danger that you run from, but one that warrants deadly force and aggression.
America eats its young and Black children live under a specific threat level, one that finds that the fear of them gives people the right to respond to that fear with violence. Willie Noble doesn’t have the protection of a ‘stand your ground’/castle doctrine, but, again, that isn’t going to bring this beautiful Black girl back. We have to challenge laws that enable the killers of our children, but we also have to do some major work to defend their humanity, even to people who look like us.
Jamilah Lemieux is EBONY.com's Senior Editor.