Laquan McDonald

When the news broke about the death of Laquan McDonald in October of 2014, I have to admit that I’d become not quite desensitized to the story of the white cop killing the young black man. I could no longer hold the distinction between these kinds of incidents of the news cycle. There was Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri not long before that and Eric Garner in New York, New York. There was the very young Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio shortly after it. I’m not going to list them all. 

Then fragile white folks and offended law enforcement communities took umbrage with the radical idea that Black Lives Matter. They turned it into a political division by declaring that “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” as if a profession was a race. What got lost in the mix was the sanctity of life. Right leaning news outlets did what they could to dig up every  seemingly unappealing thing the murdered black man had committed in the past, illegal or not. This was a way of placating the public and helping us to believe that it was justified. Because if it wasn’t, then we’d have to realize that there is a crack in the system and we might just want to mourn an unnecessary death. 

It wasn’t until October 2018 when the trial of the police officer who killed McDonald was happening that I took a closer look at the case. I remembered the video of the shooting when it first happened four years previously. I remembered thinking that it seemed hard to justify shooting an intoxicated youth 16 times because he had a three inch knife in his hand. I remember crying. I try to empathize with the police officers in these cases. Because I can’t know what’s going on in their heads when these situations happen. But this was just…sad. This was not justified.

The “system” failed Laquan even though it was full of individuals who stepped outside their duties to help him. I found a December 2015 article from the Chicago Tribune, “The complicated, short life of Laquan McDonald” by Christy Gutowski and Jeremy Gorner. He had folks who cared about him, but his life seemed destined for tragedy from the start. It’s a great piece of journalism. It touched me. I wrote a song. I wish Laquan’s family could hear it.

https://soundcloud.com/hannahbingman/laquan-demo
Maybe I didn't do my mama right 
I should have stayed off the streets that night 
Maybe I shouldn't have lost myself 
Wishing I was born somebody else 

16 shots What do you get? 
Just another black boy dead 

Maybe I didn't help my sister enough 
I was always trying to stay fucked up 
Maybe she don't need me now 
17 years old I'm 6 feet in the ground 

A 3 inch blade Brough 8 cop cars 
They didn't even ask what I was out there for

If I was born a different color 
If I was born to a different kind of mother 
Would my chances be different instead 
Of just another black boy dead

Maybe I should have just stopped and stayed
They'd have shot me dead anyway
Maybe I should have seen it coming 
Whichever way I was running

16 shots What do you get? 
Just another black boy dead
Just another black boy dead

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