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.
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