Black and brown deaths – and the lessons that die with them

Today is Eid-al-Fitr, the Islamic holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But I cannot bring myself to wish my friends and family Eid Mobarak. I cannot stop thinking about what happened several days ago, two days ago, yesterday, today.

Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Jeddah. Qatif. Dhaka.web1_111210532-bf0c8bbfe49346c784007fb6854ceb3c

Baton Rouge.

We are breathless. We are exhausted. We are broken.

It is difficult to celebrate when the foundations of your faith crumble beneath your feet. No, not faith in God. Faith in humanity.

Daesh, better known in Western media outlets as ISIS, slaughtered hundreds in the Middle East – not unlike the horrifying attacks in Orlando, Brussels or Paris. And yet, there is no collective outrage. No red-faced TV pundits demanding justice. No screaming or filibustering politicians, no silent protests on the floor of Congress. Muslim grief is not collective grief. It’s deserved. It’s par for the course. They brought it upon themselves, says David Frum.

And this morning, we wake up to the news that police in Baton Rouge tackled, mounted, shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling in front of the convenience store where he worked. His crime? He was a black man with a gun. Like millions of other Americans, he had a gun. Like this San Diego white man, who was only injured and disarmed by police, Sterling had a gun. The owner of the convenience store said the gun wasn’t even in Sterling’s hands when he was killed.

I haven’t turned on cable news. It’s easier to live in the social media echo chamber that is Facebook and Twitter. Because the reality is much too disturbing. The justifications for why a 12-year-old black boy with a toy gun should be shot and killed in cold blood are much too painful to hear. The argument that a 17-year-old unarmed black boy with Skittles in hand brought his death upon himself is much too agonizing to process.

Blame the victims. It’s easier. Blame their religion, the color of their skin, the way they dress, the things they said. They should have, they could have. But what does it matter anyway? They’re dead. The lesson they would have learned died with them.

What is our lesson? In a world where people care little about black and brown bodies, where people have the luxury of absolving themselves of guilt or responsibility for deaths thousands of miles away, where empathy and remorse have geographical and racial limits, where people throw their hands up, shrug their shoulders, and casually mutter “All Lives Matter…”

What is our lesson?

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