If you have followed the aftermath of the August 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, then you have most likely seen the image of his stepfather holding a makeshift cardboard sign that reads, “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!” You have likely seen the photo of Brown’s mother staring into the camera, her husband encircling her neck with his arm, her eyes swollen to slits after what must have been hours of crying and asking questions that went unanswered.
The grief-stricken face of the parent is everywhere in moments like this, these too frequent moments when a young person loses his or her life to the senseless, ceaseless fear and hatred that black bodies arouse. It seems to matter little what that body is doing at the time it’s mowed down. Approaching a stranger’s porch to ask for help, listening to music with friends, walking home from the corner store—no activity is safe from the knee jerk responses set off by racial hatred or implicit bias. Whatever the preceding action, a human being is dead and his or her parents are left to convince the public and the courts that their offspring had a right to expect another day on earth.