Trayvon Martin was never the only ‘Trayvon Martin.’ According to a report produced by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), in the first half of 2012 alone there were 120 Black people killed by police, security guards, or self-appointed law enforcers. From January 1 to June 30 of this year, we could have held a march and protested the extrajudicial killing of a Black person every 36 hours.
It’s part of what made Trayvon’s case so frustrating, aside from the ineptitude and/or disinterest of the Sanford police department in getting to the truth of what happened that February night. We know that these things are a nearly-everyday occurrence, yet we remain so powerless to stop it. All we are left with is outrage.
Which brings us to the Chavis Carter case. On Saturday July 28, the 21 year-old Mississippi native died from a gunshot wound to the head while in the custody of police in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The police report labels the official cause of death as “suicide,” which raises eyebrows because not only had Carter been searched twice and no weapon was found on his person. At the time of the shooting, he was handcuffed, hands behind his back, in the backseat of the squad car. “I think they killed him,” Teresa Carter, Chavis’ mother, told her local news station, WREG-TV, “I mean, I just want to know what really happened.”
Do we have enough outrage left?
Specifically, do we have enough outrage left when the potential victim’s profile doesn’t fit our ideal? It isn’t clear yet whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of Keith Baggett and Ron Marsh, the officers on the scene who were responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle, and Carter’s record isn’t squeaky clean. He originally provided a false name, the first search produced a bag of marijuana on his person, and when Marsh got his real name and ran it through the system, it was learned that Carter had an open arrest warrant out on him from Desoto County, Mississippi. On paper, he’s nearly what 2nd Amendment and ‘Stand Your Ground’ stalwarts attempted to make Trayvon into in order to justify his death.
However, even Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates has had to admit that the official explanation “defies logic,” much like Zimmerman’s account of what happened the night he killed Trayvon continues to defy logic. That Carter was searched twice, neither search producing a weapon, and was left alone in the backseat of the squad car with his hands cuffed behind his back, but supposedly still managed to shoot himself in the right temple, when his mother says that he was left-handed, would almost be an astonishing feat if it weren’t so tragic and implausible. Any prior legal trouble shouldn’t overshadow what is a truly bizarre explanation for a loss of life.
Officers Baggett and Marsh have been placed on administrative leave and an investigation has been launched, with the FBI involved. But as another mother and community mourns, the question is, do we have enough outrage to continue demanding answers? Do we have enough outrage for Rekia Boyd, the 22 year-old Chicago woman shot and killed by an off duty police officer back in March? Her family still doesn’t have answers as to why . Do we have enough outrage left for Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old Bronx native killed in his bathroom by a single shot? The officer, Richard Haste, has plead not guilty to charges of first and second-degree manslaughter, saying he had “no choice” but to kill him. Graham was unarmed. Do we have enough outrage left for Wendell Allen, the 20 year-old New Orleanian killed by NOPD officer Joshua Colcough? Allen was shot in his family’s home in March while the police were executing a search warrant for marijuana. He, too, was unarmed.
Just how much outrage do we have left? It’s hard to say. And, perhaps the more pertinent question is: how much more outrage is needed to show Black life has worth?