Last updated on April 13th, 2021 at 10:21 am
George Floyd’s murder—in the midst of a global pandemic, no less—was a stark reminder that Black lives don’t matter in 2020.
At least not as much as they should.
While a good chunk of the world was shocked by the number of Blacks killed by police, for far too much of the Black community it was an all-too-familiar story with the number of Black lives taken too soon, and we were frankly shocked by the overwhelming reaction the world had to the news.
And the world got vocal about it all, explaining why Black lives do matter in a world convinced otherwise. But as well-intentioned as everyone’s efforts were, they didn’t always tell the entire story, and after a while, it all started to make me think.
Let’s take a look at a meme that was meant to explain white privilege to others and why it was so important to understand the Black Lives Matter movement:
A Meme on Examples of White Privilege
“I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice about it…
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper).
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).
I can sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones).
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
I can go to church (#Charleston9).
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
I can hold a hairbrush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford).
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott).
I can be a 10-year-old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
I can run (#WalterScott). I can breathe (#EricGarner).
I can live (#FreddieGray).
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd).
White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today. EDUCATE YOURSELF AND USE YOUR PRIVILEGE TO BE AN EFFECTIVE ALLY.
*I copied and pasted this… please do the same.
It’s About More than Black Deaths, Though: There’s FAR More to the Story.
Now—I’m not fully hating on memes like this. Yes, it gets Botham Jean’s name wrong, and yes, it confuses parts of Sean Bell’s story with Khiel Coppin’s, but it at least raises awareness of so many of the Black people whose lives have been taken by injustices over time. But what are we accomplishing if all we mention of these names are the ways that they died instead of placing importance on the ways that they lived as well?
In Murdered for their Melanin, I wanted to humanize these names, giving more context to the lives that were stolen from African Americans entirely too soon.
And so I got to work, picking the meme apart, educating myself on the stories of all the people mentioned in the hashtags. And I won’t lie—so much of the research was super depressing, but I knew it was necessary to build something that could help people think differently. It took plenty of work with some assists from my friend Jenn Annis, but after enough hours spent in Adobe Illustrator, I finally wound up with Murdered for their Melanin: It’s More Than Just a Meme.
Murdered for their Melanin: Because You Don’t Tell a Story from its End.
Black stories are left unheard too often in our world, frequently only coming up when Black people are shot by police. But these Black tales are important, because they’re just as valid as any other narrative in history.
And so I ask you to sit with Murdered for their Melanin. I ask you to learn about the people behind the names and stop seeing them as just Black victims and start seeing them as Black people who were robbed of their lives. Let’s educate each other about the Black lives we’ve lost in the hopes that we don’t have to lose any ever again.
Let’s fight for a better world, y’all.
Say Their Names. Murdered for their Melanin: It’s More Than Just a Meme.
- Research assistance and editing provided by Jenn Annis from Jenn Writes
- I didn’t include Christian Cooper in the list, because although he was definitely a victim, he walked away from racism with his life
- You can click here for the full image (5.7 MB)
Black Lives Matter: The PEOPLE Behind the Names.
|Name||Age at Death||Date||Location||How They Lived||How They Died||Source|
|George Floyd||46||5/25/2020||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Known to loved ones as "Big Floyd", a gentle giant who moved to Minneapolis to find work.||Killed by police kneeling on his neck after the police were called in upon suspicion of him using a counterfeit $20 bill||SkyNews | Who was George Floyd? The 'gentle giant' who was trying to turn his life around|
|Breonna Taylor||26||3/13/2020||Louisville, Kentucky||A certified EMT who worked two hospital jobs, wanted to become a nurse, buy a house and start a family.||Police burst into her apartment spraying gunfire while serving a no-knock warrant and shot Breonna eight times||USA Today | 'Get your damn story straight': What we know about Louisville woman Breonna Taylor's death|
|Ahmaud Arbery||25||2/23/2020||Glynn County, Georgia||Never departed from his loved ones without an “I Love You”. Had a smile that would light up a room. Loved to tell jokes, elicit laughter and had a beautiful personality.||Stalked by three men who'd eventually murder him by shotgun||Chavous B. Johnson and Reid Funeral Service | Ahmaud Marquez Arbery|
|Atatiana Jefferson||28||10/12/2019||Fort Worth, Texas||Worked in human resources, graduated in 2014 from Xavier University of Louisiana with a bachelor's degree in biology, and moved into the Fort Worth home to help care for her ailing mother.||Shot after police came to her home answering a "welfare call" because her door was open - reaction to perceiving her as a threat due to her gun (2:30 AM)||WFAA 8 ABC | Who was Atatiana Jefferson? Woman killed by Fort Worth police officer in her home|
|Botham Jean||26||9/6/2018||Dallas, Texas||Preacher. Singer. Volunteer. Leader. A Harding University alumnus and an accountant at Price Waterhouse-Cooper — co-workers described him as joyful.||Shot dead by Amber Guyger who mistakenly entered his apartment, thinking it was hers||KHOU 11 | Who was Botham Jean? A man of great joy. A man of faith. A preacher, teacher and singer|
|Stephon Clark||23||3/18/2018||Sacramento, California||Turned his life around after previous run-ins with the law. Father of two. Went by "Zoe Blow".||Shot at twenty times in a case of mistaken identity in the backyard of his grandmother's home when police mistook his cellphone for a gun||KCRA 3 | Who was Stephon Clark?|
|Jordan Edwards||15||4/19/2017||Batch Springs, Texas||Straight-A student at Mesquite High School, played quarterback and receiver on the football team, and was a loving child, with a humble and sharing spirit. The bond that he shared with his family was indescribable.||Shot through a car window when police came to investigate a party||CNN | Who was Jordan Edwards? Teen killed by police called a good student, athlete|
|Keith Scott||43||9/20/2016||Charlotte, North Carolina||He had seven children and married his wife Rakeyia on March 25, 1996. He was passionate about motorcycle riding and crashed a few months before the shooting incident, which damaged his cognition and dramatically affected his behavior.||Controversial killing where it was debated whether he was holding a gun or not in front of his car.||BlackPast | KEITH LAMONT SCOTT (1973-2016)|
|Terence Crutcher||40||9/16/2016||Tulsa, Oklahoma||He was a family man with three daughters and a son who he lived with at the time of his death. He was passionate about music, majoring in music at Tulsa Community College, with a dream of becoming a gospel singer.||Shot dead for erratic behaviour while trying to get assistance with his SUV||BlackPast | TERENCE CRUTCHER (1976-2016)|
|Philando Castile||32||7/6/2016||Falcon Heights, Minnesota||A well-regarded employee of St Paul Public School's food services division, known to students as "Mr Phil". To friends, he was "Chedda" because he always had a job and always made money. A quiet man who loved video games.||Shot seven times by a police officer after telling the police he had a legal firearm but he wasn't reaching for it. He was with his partner and her child in the car.||BBC News | Philando Castile death: 'I lost my best friend in a police shooting'|
|Alton Sterling||37||7/5/2016||Baton Rouge, Louisiana||The father of five children, living in a shelter for a few months. He loved to cook—“whatever he cooked, he cooked enough for everybody.” Sold CDs outside of Triple S Food Mart for years, adopting the nickname “CD Man.”||Pinned to the ground and shot six times at close range by two police who believed he was reaching for his gun||HuffPost | 13 Painful Facts About Alton Sterling's Life (And Death)|
|Corey Jones||31||10/18/2015||Palm Beach Gardens, Florida||A popular drummer in south Florida who played in the band at his church and worked as an inspector for a local city’s housing authority.||Killed by a plainclothes police officer while waiting by his disabled vehicle for a tow-truck||Heavy. | Corey Jones: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know|
|Sandra Bland||28||7/13/2015||Waller County, Texas||Sang in the choir at church, had a wicked sense of humor, was spunky, feisty, and wasn’t going to let anyone run over her. Attended Prairie View A&M University on a music scholarship, joining a historically black sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho.||Hung herself in a jail cell after being arrested for, essentially, an escalation from a minor ticket violation basically caused by the police||The Nation. | What Happened to Sandra Bland?|
|Clementa C. Pinckney||41||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||A state senator and the senior pastor of Emanuel, married to Jennifer Benjamin and the father of two children, Eliana and Malana. He was a 1995 graduate of Allen University and got his master's degree at the University of South Carolina in 1999. He served in the state Legislature starting in 2000.||Nine victims aged 26-87 shot dead by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, gathered for a weekly Bible study.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd||54||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||A 31-year employee who managed the John L. Dart Library for 21 years before heading the St. Andrews Regional Library. Dedicated her life to serving and improving the lives of others.||Nine victims aged 26-87 shot dead by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, gathered for a weekly Bible study.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Susie Jackson||87||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||Ethel Lee Lance's cousin and a longtime church member.||Nine victims aged 26-87 shot dead by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, gathered for a weekly Bible study.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Ethel Lee Lance||70||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||Attended Emanuel for most of her life and worked there as a custodian, as well. She was funny and a pleasure to be around. And she was a wonderful mother and grandmother.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Depayne Middleton-Doctor||49||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||Mother of four who sang in Emanuel's choir. An admissions coordinator at the Charleston campus of her alma mater, Southern Wesleyan University. Always a warm and enthusiastic leader, DePayne truly believed in the mission of SWU to help students achieve their potential by connecting faith with learning.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Tywanza Sanders||26||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||2014 graduate in business administration from Allen University in Columbia. Lady June Cole, the interim president of Allen University, described him as "a quiet, well-known student who was committed to his education." Known as Ty, he had worked in sales at department stores such as Belk and Macy's.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Daniel L. Simmons||74||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||The Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74: Simmons survived the initial attack but then died in a hospital operating room. He had previously been a pastor at another church in the Charleston area.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Sharonda Coleman-Singleton||45||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||Pastor at Emanuel, also a speech therapist and high school girls track and field coach at Goose Creek High School. A true professional who cared about her students and was an advocate for them. Had three children.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Myra Thompson||59||6/17/2015||Charleston, South Carolina||Myra Thompson, 59: She was the wife of the Rev. Anthony Thompson, the vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston.||NPR | The Two-Way | The Victims: 9 Were Slain At Charleston's Emanuel AME Church|
|Freddie Gray||25||4/12/2015||Baltimore, Maryland||Close friends of Gray, described him as loyal and warm, humorous and happy.||Arrested for carrying a knife, subject to police brutality, entered a coma while in transport and died||The Washington Post | Who was Freddie Gray? How did he die? And what led to the mistrial in Baltimore?|
|Walter Scott||50||4/4/2015||North Charleston, South Carolina||Walter Scott was loving, kind and outgoing; he was somebody who "knew everybody." He spent two years in the Coast Guard, and had four children.||Shot at eight times, hit five times, three times in the back, while fleeing from the police at a traffic stop.||CNN | South Carolina policeman charged with murder after video of shooting emerges|
|Tamir Rice||12||11/22/2014||Cleveland, Ohio||Tamir was a popular child who liked to draw, play basketball and perform in the school’s drum line.||Killed by an emotionally unstable police officer for carrying a toy replica gun at a recreation center||NBC News | Tears at Funeral for Cleveland Boy Tamir Rice Shot by Cop|
|Mike Brown||18||8/9/2014||Ferguson, Missouri||Brown had a gentle, joking manner and dubbed himself "Big Mike." He was good at fixing things, liked computer games, and was days away from starting a training program for heating and air conditioning repair.||Shot to death by a police officer who suspected him of stealing cigarettes and then shot him first in a struggle, and later killed him unarmed on the street||CTV News | Michael Brown remembered as 'gentle giant' at funeral|
|John Crawford III||22||8/5/2014||Beavercreek, Ohio||John Crawford III was a 22 year old loving father of 2 sons. He had gone to walmart that day to get the ingredients to make s'mores at a family cookout.||Shot and killed by police while holidng a BB gun in a Wal-mart after a customer called 911, saying he was waving it around||The Guardian | Video shows John Crawford's girlfriend aggressively questioned after Ohio police shot him dead in Walmart|
|Eric Garner||43||7/17/2014||New York City, New York||Eric Garner played Santa Claus every year for his six children and three grandchildren.||Killed by a chokehold upon accusation of selling loose cigarettes.||International Business Times | Eric Garner Donations 2014: Family Support Fund Raises Money For Garner's Widow, 6 Children Ahead Of Holidays|
|Renisha McBride||19||11/2/2013||Dearborn Heights, Michigan||Renisha was a goofy person whose smile would light up the room, according to her sister, Jasmine.||Crashed her car while intoxicated, knocked on the door of a house at 4:42 am, shot dead by the resident||Los Angeles Times | Detroit-area man gets 17 to 32 years for shooting visitor on porch|
|Jonathan Ferrell||24||9/14/2013||Charlotte, North Carolina||Jonathan was working 2 jobs to help support himself and his fiancee - he had moved to North Carolina after graduation to be with her.||Crashed his car, went to a house for help, the white resident called the police claiming he was trying to break into her house. Police shot and killed him as he ran towards them||Daily Mail | Newly-released video shows harrowing moment North Carolina cop shot dead unarmed black man after he crashed his car and went looking for HELP|
|Jordan Davis||17||11/23/2012||Jacksonville, Florida||Jordan's mom describes him as humourous, fun-loving, a jokester who was full of understanding and wisdom.||Shot by David Dunn, 45, over playing loud music at a gas station. Dunn lied and said Davis had threatened him with a weapon.||YouTube | CNN | The parents of Jordan Davis want you to know their son|
|Trayvon Martin||17||2/26/2012||Sanford, Florida||Trayvon Martin was highly interested in studying aviation and potentially becoming a pilot. His favourite subject in school was math.||Shot dead upon suspicion of being up to no good by a paranoid neighbour||Biography | Trayvon Martin|
|Aiyana Jones||7||5/16/2010||Detroit, Michigan||Aiyana loved Disney princesses and the colour pink.||Shot dead during a raid of the wrong unit, after a flash grenade had set her on fire||CBS News | Aiyana Jones, 7, killed by Detroit cop|
|Oscar Grant||22||1/1/2009||Oakland, California||Grant was in the process of turning his life around, he was going to move out and live with his girlfriend and their child and he was going to go to barber school.||Shot in the back by a police officer while pinned down by the neck by another||San Francisco Chronicle | 10 years since Oscar Grant's death: What happened at Fruitvale Station?|
|Sean Bell||23||11/25/2006||New York City, New York||Bell was a loving father to 2 little girls, Jordyn and Jada.||Shot at fifty times by six officers in his car, with plainclothes officers suspecting that a shootout was about to take place. He was killed in the early hours of his wedding day.||Newsday | $7.2M settlement in Sean Bell wrongful-death case|
|Amadou Diallo||23||2/4/1999||New York City, New York||Dreamed of becoming a teacher - was saving money for tuition.||Shot at 41 times, killed by the 19 bullets that struck him in a case of mistaken identity.||The City | 20 Years After the NYPD Killing of Amadou Diallo, His Mom Asks: What’s Changed?|
|Yvonne Smallwood||28||12/9/1987||New York City, New York||worked as a dietician's aide at a Bronx hospital and as a home health-care attendant||Died of her injuries after being kicked and beaten by police.||The New York Times | Bronx Jury Clears Police In '87 Death|
|Randolph Evans||15||11/25/1976||New York City, New York||"I never knew him to cause trouble—he was a very friendly child, he loved life"||Shot point-blank in the head by a police offer after a brief conversation||The New York Times | Boy, 15, Shot to Death Point‐Blank; Officer Arrested in East New York|
|Claude Reese||14||9/15/1974||New York City, New York||Claude was helping to spruce up the basement room in the apartment building with six other teens for a birthday party.||Shot when a police officer mistook a handsaw for a gun.||The New York Times | Officer Who Killed Youth, 14, Is Relieved of His Police Duties|
|Clifford Glover||10||4/28/1973||New York City, New York||Clifford was an aspiring junior mechanic who went to work at the junkyard with his stepfather on Saturdays.||Shot by the police while walking with his stepfather on a Saturday. They suspected them of robbery.||The New Republic | Policing and the English Language|