White Victims and Straw Man Memes for a Well-Balanced False Narrative

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All rights © Maria Oswalt. Atlanta

More than 150 days ago Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove murdered Breonna Taylor. Zero arrests have been made.

But plenty of straw man arguments are being made about the Black Lives Matter movement not valuing all lives. As in, why aren’t protestors demanding the same simultaneous level of outrage for all murder victims as they are for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor?

The answer? All murders are crimes against humanity. But not all murders are prosecuted equally, if at all. And that is what we’re protesting.

This week two memes came across my newsfeed. Each indignant with the same false equivalency.

This little boy’s name was Cannon Hinnant. He was playing with his siblings. And then he was shot.

In this horrifically uncommon incident, it seems a neighbor shot and killed a little boy in cold blood with zero motive. Not that there is any justifiable motive for something so atrocious. You don’t have to be a parent to have your heart wrenched out of your chest reading about a crime like this.

Implying that this little boy’s life didn’t matter is a straw man argument. And it is exactly why some, not enough, politicians are demanding justice for POC lives, why athletes and celebrities have to step in and advocate for the criminal justice system to do its jobs — because when Black people are murdered there are no arrests. That is the pattern — not beautiful little white boys being executed on a regular basis with zero arrests.

The man suspected of killing Cannon is in custody. He has been charged with first-degree murder. The system is working. Politicians do not have to demand justice because this heinous act was committed on a Sunday and a suspect was in custody by Monday.

And unless he has previous arrests that’s how you have his mugshot to make this meme and post it within three days. Because the media did cover it. Maybe without 400 years of cumulative injustice outrage and maybe without the emotional fanfare you want — because everyone did their job in this case.

The police did their job and found him 30 miles away. The DA did its job and charged him. The prison system did its job and is keeping him in custody.

This is how the justice system is supposed to work for everyone — including when the victim is Black. But it only consistently works this efficiently when the perpetrator is Black and the victim is White.

That’s why we’re outraged.

The pictures of Taylor’s murderers depict respectable looking citizens in suits — no orange jumpsuits. These white criminals are treated and protected like victims.

That is why there is outrage and comparative media silence on this precious little boy. Because we are getting justice for his tragic and senseless murder. We don’t need to fight for it.

But if you want to kneel in his memory please do. Hold a vigil instead of getting angry that other people aren’t. If you want to do something in his honor, besides straw man memes that attempt to dilute the validity of a crucial movement, please do.

The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t just about raising awareness about the astonishing number of people of color being harassed, assaulted and murdered. It’s also about how many of those murders are committed by law enforcement officers paid to serve and protect. And it’s about how the criminal justice system fails to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate them — even when they commit crimes on camera. That is four consecutive problems that little Cannon’s family won’t also have to struggle with while they grapple with their unspeakable loss.

If you think media silence is immoral then criminal justice silence is a travesty.

We are supposed to see color and celebrate our differences. We don’t need to be colorblind to be good and decent. But the justice system has to be. Until then may the outrage ignite permanent change for the people disenfranchised by it and victimized by it.

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