So—while it’s good that more of us are getting on board with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, though well-intentioned, not everything necessarily tells the stories they need to when it comes to the Black experience.
Take this meme, for example, which serves as a cry for others to recognise their white privilege and understand why Black people are fighting for their rights:
“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 hair brush 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 10yr 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. 🖤
…and that’s a good start. Yes, it gets Botham Jean’s name wrong and confuses parts of Sean Bell’s story with Khiel Coppin’s, but overall, it’s good to raise the awareness.
Except that what’s missing from this meme is the humanity. The stories that make you understand how heinous these killings were, often against Black people who died far too young, too often for no good reason at all. What was missing was context, so I wanted to put together a guide that’d give you a little more information on the names we keep throwing around.
Murdered for their Melanin — Because You Don’t Tell a Story from its End.
Amidst a flurry of activity in the past couple of weeks and with some research and editing assists from Jenn Annis, I took every spare moment I could to crack Adobe Illustrator open and add some stories to the list.
It wasn’t easy—facing the number of ways Black lives have been trampled through the years isn’t a light undertaking by any means, but I was determined to put this out while the conversation was still afoot.
So without further ado, allow me to present Murdered for their Melanin, an infographic dedicated to the Black lives we’ve lost in the hopes we don’t have to lose any ever again.
I hope it gives you some pause.
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)
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 an escalation from a minor ticket violation.
The Charleston 9
- 6/17/2015 | Charleston, South Carolina
- Nine victims aged 26-87 shot dead by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, gathered for a weekly Bible study.
Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41:
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.
Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, 54:
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.
Susie Jackson, 87:
Ethel Lee Lance’s cousin and a longtime church member.
Ethel Lee Lance, 70:
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.
Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49:
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.
Tywanza Sanders, 26:
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.
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, 74:
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.
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45:
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.
Myra Thompson, 59:
She was the wife of the Rev. Anthony Thompson, the vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston.
- 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.
- 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.
- 12 | 11/22/2014 | Cleveland, Ohio
- Tamir was a popular child who liked to draw, play basketball and perform in the school’s drumline.
- Killed by an emotionally unstable police officer for carrying a toy replica gun at a recreation center.
- 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.
John Crawford III
- 22 | 8/5/2014 | Beavercreek, Ohio
- John Crawford III was a 22-year-old loving father of two sons. He had gone to Wal-Mart that day to get the ingredients to make s’mores at a family cookout.
- Shot and killed by police while holding a BB gun in a Wal-mart after a customer called 911, saying he was waving it around.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.