All Black Lives Matter

By Tiffany Wang, Digital Communications Coordinator, YWCA USA

Jordan Edwards was shot and killed by police as he was leaving a party to go home. He was unarmed. He was 15 years old, making him the youngest person to have been killed by police in the United States this year. He died of a single gunshot wound to the head after police opened fire on a car he was riding in as the vehicle moved away. His brothers watched him die.

Jordan did everything that we perceive to be “right.”  He was a straight-A student who was active in sports, popular and well-liked, and had no record or disciplinary history. He went to a party, like many teenagers do. The party started getting rowdy, so Jordan left. He was leaving to go home when he was shot in the head by a police officer.

People, especially people of color, are always told how to behave and how to look. Jordan did everything that we all say and think is good and right. In the media and on social media, people are continuing to point out that he was a good kid, a good student, that he was well-liked and an athlete. “You create a checklist of everything you would want in a player, a son, a teammate, a friend,” said Jordan’s coach, “and Jordan had all that. He was that kid.”

He was still killed.

Black and Brown young lives don’t only matter if they get good grades. They matter, period. Jordan Edwards could have had a juvenile record, been terrible at sports and in school, been disliked, and he still would not have deserved what happened to him. The media should not be sifting through his life record in a quest to explain why he should not have been shot to death. He was a good kid, sure. But good kids are not the only ones whose lives matter. All Black lives matter, not just the respectable ones with good academic and extracurricular records.

This is the reality: Black people are more than twice as likely to be killed by police than their White peers. Between 2010 and 2012, Black teens were 21 times as likely as White teens to be shot and killed by police.

Black and Brown bodies are not safe. White supremacy and our country’s system of state-sanctioned violence and institutionalized racism does not allow it. What does it allow? It allows the police account of Jordan Edwards to be changed, after the police chief said the body camera footage contradicted the initial statement. It allows us to read, “He was not a thug. This shouldn’t happen to him” in a major media outlet and, for many of us, not give another thought to how this statement itself demonstrates the same anti-Blackness, bias, and internalized racism that results in Black and Brown bodies being killed in our country. It allows the officers involved in the shooting of Jordan Edwards to wait to be interviewed after they’ve had a chance to “decompress.” It allows all of us to know that, although Jordan’s cause of death has been ruled a homicide, charges will not necessarily be filed against the officer who killed him.

Violence perpetrated by those who are supposed to be responsible for protecting and serving all of our communities, and racial profiling and targeting that results in the deaths of Black and Brown people must end. Jordan Edwards should be here today, with his family and friends. No matter his background of success and likability, Jordan should be alive. He should have been able to grow up. He was a human being.

His life was a Black life, and he mattered.