Do I Matter?

Rekia Boyd. Photo Courtesy: Khyle Hayes

Khyle Hayes

Contributing Writer

Opinion Piece

As children, we’re all told by someone that we matter. Whether it’s a parent, a teacher, an older sibling, or even your favorite rapper, someone has told you at least once that you matter. Unfortunately, a particular demographic of people has to remind everyone else that they matter.

White children usually become white adults who go the rest of their lives with that idea untouched. To the person making an effort to not understand the point being made, white people do go through tough times as well. White people do question their importance as well, but white people never question their importance because of the fact that they’re white.

Black children are told that we matter just as white people are. Black children, who are afforded the luxury of becoming black adults, are certain to have questioned the importance of their existence at least once because of the fact that they are black. If this statement wasn’t true in the years prior to 2019, as of Jan. 18, 2019, it’s absolutely true now.

On the aforementioned date, Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to six years and nice months for the murder of Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald 16 times. He was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated assault. He could’ve been sentenced to a maximum of 96 years, but the judge decided to only sentence Van Dyke on the charge of second degree murder because murder is more important than assault.

Judge Vincent Gaughan is correct that murder is more important than assault, but by not sentencing Van Dyke on every charge he was convicted, Gaughan did Van Dyke a huge favor – and he knew that Van Dyke doesn’t deserve any favors. Laquan McDonald deserves justice.

“I don’t want to cry anymore. I don’t want to die. As long as police officers with documented history of racism aren’t punished severely for murdering black people, I am fearful for my life.” -Hayes

Hadiya Pendleton was murdered on Jan.  29, 2013. She was a classmate of mine at King College Prep High School. I still vividly  remember finishing my final exams and going to McDonald’s with my friends. Hadiya finished her finals and went to the park with her friends. We both should’ve returned returned home that day, but instead someone shot into the park intending to hit someone else. He has since been sentenced to 84 years. After
nearly 6 years of waiting on justice for Hadiya, I was glad. I was relieved that the fight was over.

Three days later, Van Dyke’s sentence leaves me reflecting about the reasons I’m glad. Justice for Hadiya was served. True. But was it for Hadiya or was it because her murderer was black? If Hadiya was killed by a police officer in that same situation, would he be in jail? I’m sure there’s a skeptic who’s wondering how I know. I know because that situation did happen – to my cousin, Rekia Boyd.

Dante Servin, who is still a free man, killed Rekia Boyd in a park. She was in a park with friends, same as Hadiya. She should’ve returned home to her family the same way Hadiya should’ve. Dante Servin was angry that a group of black people were actually enjoying life in a park near his house, so after they refused to leave the park, which they had all right to do, Servin left to get his gun and did a drive-by on the park, hitting Rekia in the head and killing her. Servin shot recklessly into a park the same way Hadiya Pendleton’s killer did. One man is free. One man is serving an 84-year sentence. There’s one difference between the two men: their race. I hope the people who love and care for Hadiya understand why I question the differences in cases, but when the justice system continues to show me that I don’t matter, I have no choice. Are we only given justice when our offender is black? It certainly seems
that way, and if I’m correct then that’s not really justice.

As I write this, my eyes are bloodshot red. If the police busted my bedroom door down and killed me in the manner in which they killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, they would say my eyes are this red because I was high. I
was high and enraged and they had to kill me because I became dangerously aggressive. If this is the story that came
out, none of us would be surprised. I’m not high. My toxicology report won’t find any marijuana in my system, but the toxicology report presented to the media will say they found marijuana and PCP, in the same way that Laquan McDonald’s toxicology report was falsified. My eyes are bloodshot red because I’ve been crying. I cried when I read the news of Van Dyke’s sentencing. While I was crying, he was smiling because he was relieved. Where is my relief ? When do I get the relief of a just sentence for murderous officers? I don’t. My eyes are bloodshot red because I’ve cried almost to the point of forced regurgitation, but regurgitation wasn’t possible because I was too sick to have eaten anything.

I don’t want to cry anymore. I don’t want to die. As long as police officers with documented history of racism aren’t punished severely for murdering black people, I am fearful for my life. I’m also fearful of my life not meaning any more than a headline that people shake their head at until there’s another headline about a young black person’s death for people to shake their head at. I long for a day in which racism doesn’t exist. I long for a day in which black lives are valued the same as white lives whether the murderer is white or black. I long for a day in which university presidents don’t struggle to affirm that black lives matter. I long for a day in which I don’t have to ask myself the dreadful question. Today is not the day. So do I matter?

hayekhyl@my.dom.edu

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