Last month, three of my cousins were murdered by one of their ex-boyfriends/children’s father. It still doesn’t seem like real life. This is some murder porn* stuff.
The day started normally enough for me. I woke up late and my mom said she wanted to talk to me. I remember being really annoyed that we were going to have to have a serious talk right when I woke up. I don’t think I hide it well.
“You heard about the triple murder suicide last night in [town]?” “Uhm, no.”
I feel bad, because my first thought was of my brother M, who lives in that town. So now I’m really scared.
“Well, I think K and B were killed by B’s ex-boyfriend last night and then he shot himself.” “What? No.”
And then I left because K and B are the last names I thought she’d mentioned. But a quick check to facebook showed that their friends had already heard the news and that confirmed it for me. Later on in the day, I would find out the third person who was murdered wasn’t just a friend of theirs, but actually another cousin of ours.
At first I couldn’t believe it. That doesn’t make sense. Why would he kill her? And why he kill the rest? And then why would he kill himself? And what about the baby? (The baby thankfully is ok and is too young to ever remember any of this (hopefully).) So I started digging for details. Turns out the reasons were the increasingly common reasons a noncustodial father kills the mother of his children – child support and because she was moving on.
Now that I could believe it, I was angry. Why is this the solution? Why is it when a relationship doesn’t work out, violence is the next step? What was his plan if the cops didn’t stop him? I actually don’t want to know.
I was only angry for a little while before I became sad. My cousins K and B were young. Both under 30 and both with children. They hadn’t lived life yet. My third cousin, T, was older, and to be sure, I feel sad for her too, but at least she got to live most of her life. I was much closer to K and B than T.
And then the guilt came. I hadn’t seen them since the last funeral we all were at, which was K’s mom’s in April. I had done a terrible job of staying in touch with that side of the family. Even since I had moved back to CT, I only was ever around during times of tragedy. That and I had gone into super hermit mode for most of the first year I was here. Do I have the right to feel devastated over deaths of people I wasn’t close to? I still vacillate between “they’re your feelings it’s ok” and “you don’t have a right to feel this way.”
The only thing I felt I could do now was to help. B’s sister had come into town and was doing most of the funeral preparations. I had to help her; I felt like it was my duty. Some small way to make up for not being around while they were alive. Man, did she put me to work. It was difficult to watch everyone’s coping mechanisms, which ran the gamut from working instead of feeling and feeling so much they wound up in the hospital. It felt good to help, it felt awful to witness the families sorrow increase as they learned more details. The murderer’s very long and disturbing history of domestic violence, my cousins’ last moments, how if the stars had aligned a little differently another cousin could have been involved and if they had aligned another way, it would have been the family matriarch instead.
But then there were good moments. People volunteering food and space for the funeral. A toy drive set up for the kids. Donations of clothes and other things babies need. People coming to share a laugh and good (but really bad for you) food. And although I’m not into Church, I even appreciated the many prayers shared. But the best was the baby, who was just as happy as he always. Hard to feel down when he smiles at you.
We planned a double funeral. We had to find clothes for them to wear. Something that seemed easy enough but quickly turned into a three day project while we worried about what they would wear, would they have liked this if they were alive and still getting something to cover up all the things the family wouldn’t want to see. Because everyone was so emotionally beat down, I wrote the two obituaries.
And then the funeral happened and it was terrible and beautiful. Two white caskets next to each other, surrounded by flowers in their favorite colors, in front of a packed Church in the middle of a snowstorm. People were sobbing. Some had the decency to do it in the bathroom and not on the family who was already barely holding it together. Thankfully, I kept it together through the funeral and the burial. Me, my mom and my brother had to do readings, but again, I felt happy that I could do something. In the end, K was buried next to her mother and B was married next to her. Best friends to the end.
We worried if there going to be conflict within the family since T was just visiting and because she had died trying to help her cousins here? But of course there wasn’t, because this is family. My mom married into the family when I was little and I used to still be around even after her divorce. K and her brother used to always be at my house and I have many found memories of us terrorizing my step-father with our antics (and bad and much too loud singing). The one thing about that family that I always admired is that they always stood together, even when one was acting a complete fool. ”The Mills!” I would say and laugh. And so, when I learned that my cousins died because they were protecting one another, I was not surprised. It seemed so fitting that this tight knit family would literally die for one another. I could not be mad at that. I don’t think they would be mad either. I don’t think they would have even thought they had a choice. And though I am still really sad and mad and guilt-ridden, I take small comfort in family and the things we do for each other.
*murder porn is not actual porn. It’s those murder shows like Snapped, Fatal Encounters, anything on Investigation Discovery. Basically real life Law & Order.
I am still raw from last night’s verdict. I tried to watch the case over the past few weeks but it was too difficult. People were sidetracked by Rachel Jeantel’s color, weight and grammar. Sidetracked by a little weed in Trayvon’s system and old pictures of him on social media. And then last night, I thought I could handle news coverage after the case but a few minutes into watching the defense gloat and I was sick to my stomach. And then Zimmerman’s brother came on asking more questions to tarnish Trayvon’s reputation and push the idea that Zimmerman, who is alive, is the victim. I tend to get angry over verdicts like this, but last night I cried.
After last night, how can we look Black boys in the eyes and tell them they are valuable? We can’t act like this is an isolated incident when it seems every year an unarmed Black man or boy is killed and justice is not served. One can’t help but notice how Vick got two years for dog fighting and Placo got one year for shooting himself, but Zimmerman serves no time for admitting to shooting a child. What we learned last night is that you get a pass for hunting a Black child if you feel scared enough. We also know that every act of self-defense isn’t considered Stand Your Ground when a Black woman,who didn’t kill anyone, was given 20 years.
And what scares me more, this idea that your fists, your attitude and a slab on concrete are now dangerous weapons at Black men’s disposal and are so dangerous that they can be countered with a gun if you feel threatened enough. When I heard this come out of Zimmerman’s brother’s mouth, my first thought was of Douglas Reddish and how his case has already been totally rewritten. Instead of a Black man punching a drunk White man for yelling profanities and racial slurs at him and his girlfriend over lunch, I can already hear how the angry, drunk, belligerent man is the a victim because Reddish used the weapons of his fist and the sidewalk to knock him out. Because Reddish couldn’t just sit there and take the verbal abuse.
And perhaps the worst part, how so many people were sad about the verdict but not surprised. Some people weren’t surprised from a legal standpoint. I don’t really understand their argument, but I’ve heard if enough from lawyers and pundits on television that I have to believe at least some of it is true. But mostly, many people already know that the lives of Black men and boys are never valued as much as others. This is how you can have a case about murder and somehow manage to place the dead victim on trial. The irony of Zimmerman’s frustrated muttering, “These assholes always get away,” was not lost on me.
Today I am still sad about the verdict. Today I still wonder how do we explain to boys that even though there are countless examples of them being killed with no one being found guilty or sent to jail that their lives still matter and that they are still valuable. Today I wonder how can men balance protecting themselves and their families while juggling everyone’s fear. How can we look men in the face and say you can no longer protect yourself if you feel threatened because it’s not safe for you? You’re in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. It’s not fair and it’s not going to change anytime soon. I think Cord Jefferson nailed it: It’s a complicated thing to be young, Black and male in America.
The more I watch the news, the more worried I become about our youth. Last month it was the brutal murder of Derrion Albert. Yesterday it was the gang rape (and beating) of a 15 year old at Richmond High School. The crimes themselves are disturbing enough. The bystander effect hurts my soul. There have been many studies showing that the more people witnessing an act of violence, the less likely anyone is to help. It’s scary to know that if I’m being attacked, it might actually be better if only one other person is around as opposed to a crowd of people. I can understand some of the rationalizations of why people don’t jump in and help. But what I cannot understand is why some people would join in on the violence. CNN reported that as word spread about what was going on outside the dance, more people came to watch and some people joined in. That is just sick.
Today CNN posted a follow up of the victim’s friend giving it to the school. Granted, she spends most of her time talking about how she is a minority at the school, how she doesn’t feel safe and how another school (that is mostly White and Asian) has more security and handled a similar situation in a much different (read: better) way. From what Kami Baker says, I imagine the victim is White or Asian. If she’s White, it’s a wrap for these dudes, who I’m imagining are mostly men of color.
As is usual in cases of violence against women, other students are blaming the victim – ugh. I’m so done. I don’t care if she was drunk. I don’t care that she wasn’t popular. It’s not an excuse. I get it, blaming the victim takes the responsibility off the bystanders and other people. It’s still fucked up. I was watching another video where a chaperon was shirking any responsibility claiming that if she left, it was her and her parent’s responsibility to make sure she got home safely. That’s fair, but this girl did not even make it off school grounds. In my opinion, if she still’s at school, she’s still your responsibility. It was a 2.5 hour gang rape. That is a long time. And if word got around to all these kids, I don’t believe that no chaperon, security guard or police officer saw all these kids running to this random alleyway.
I don’t understand rape, I wouldn’t know else what to write.
at the hands of the police. I hadn’t read my google reader in a few days, and I first came across the story over at postbougie. A quick google search provided no actual news, except for blogs. I’m so pissed.
The story: around 2 am on New Years a few brown men were pulled off the train for an altercation. some were handcuffed, others weren’t. among those not handcuffed was 22 year old Oscar Grant. Apparently Mr. Grant was pleaded with the cops to not taser him, when they put him face down on the ground and shot him. Don’t believe me? It was caught on tape by two different people.
Granted it’s on a camera phone, you can still clearly see a cop holding Oscar down and another cop shotting him. What’s more crazy is that are MAD people watching, inside the train and on the platform. It’s just soo brazen I can’t believe it.
Of course the cops are trying to argue that he was trying to pull out his taser gun and mistakenly pulled out a gun. I’m sorry but a taser gun looks different than a real gun. Very different. And the worse part is that like Rodney King, these cops will probably be acquitted.
I finally found the story on CNN. Do a search for Oscar Grant and the first story is how the cop is getting death threats. Then you see the story about Oscar himself. Enough. American needs to start caring about Black men anf it needs to start now.