We often find ourselves extolling our goodness in order to receive goodness from others.
Mia White and her friend sat in a vehicle, parked on a street in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh, when approximately ten bullets hit them, killing Mia instantly. Her family, in the death’s aftermath, tell a story about Mia: she’s a God-fearing woman who went to church regularly and participated in dance ministry. Her step-mother called her “talented” . Her neighbor said that she was hard-working single mother . “A great mother”, she said.
While the police refuse to release any information about the motive behind the shooting, word in the neighborhood is that Mia was possibly murdered as the end result to a domestic dispute. Just rumors, nothing confirmed.
So many aspects of this story saddened me. She lived in the neighborhood, within a community, that I work in. I’m sure we passed each other on the street once or twice. She’s a woman actively involved in her church. Her neighbor said that she could hear Mia cry out to God after she was shot, a grave detail to add.
Mia worked to provide for her 14-year-old child. She made ends meet, involved in her community, leaving an impact everywhere she went.
But she was still murdered.
And the overemphasis of her goodness reminds me of what Black and Brown bodies always have to do when just living and breathing just isn’t enough.
How many times have you heard someone say “he was a good kid” when describing a young Black kid who was shot and killed? How many times have you heard “she was a great mother” after hearing about a Black woman murdered by an ex-spouse? It’s often like we must prove to others that we did not deserve what happened to us. That we aren’t just a statistic. That our lives mattered before someone decided that it no longer served a purpose.
It feels like we are subconsciously playing defense when it comes to the unfortunate justification of our murders.
Think about it. In the gross number of shootings of unarmed Black men and women by police, we often must tell you how much he or she didn’t live a life of crime or were pillars in their community. How they were “parents of the year” or on their way to college. How they were “raised by God-fearing parents” and were “popular in school and loved by teachers”.
It’s never because they were living and breathing individuals who deserved a live life as the rest of us. It’s not “they didn’t have to die because of [enter virtue here.]” It’s “they didn’t have to die.” Period.
Murder is never justified. That’s a fact. And that should be enough.
But it isn’t. And people of color always have to fight this idea that we didn’t have our termination coming. That we deserve to be missed for just occupying a space on this planet.
But we can’t.
It was almost like we were told all these things about Mia just so she could be mourned. Because her being a single-mother would be cause for judgement (society usually does). Or that the neighborhood she lives in would be cause for dismissal (the gentrification you see explains that). Or that her Black womanhood would say something about her too (because we’re supposedly inherently mean and violent).
All of these things — her life and where she lives — is enough for people to dispose of her importance. Maybe some already performed that stunt. But the rest we must try to not lose their hearts.
I’m sure Mia is all of the good things that her family and neighbors described of her to be. But even if we didn’t know all of these things, would be still care about her life?
I know the answer and it breaks my heart. But I’m not surprised.
This is part of my attempt to write every day in July. You can follow the series here.