Stephon Clark’s Death Has Nothing To Do With Your Grievances About Black Men
One day I’ll learn to stay off Facebook. Until then, I’ll continue to come across posts like this. Posts declaring Stephon Clark’s death a victimless crime due to his inflammatory views on Black women and aversion towards darker skin tones.
Stephon Clark was a 22-year-old black man growing up in Sacramento, CA. A graduate of Sacramento High School, Clark was a father to two young sons, ages 1 and 3. On the evening of March 18, 2018, Stephon Clark lost his life to a barrage of bullets at the hands of the Sacramento Police Department. Struck by eight of the 20 bullets fired, Stephon Clark had committed no crime and was unarmed. For these reasons alone, I will fight for Stephon Clark. I do not care about the fact that Stephon Clark preferred non-Black women. I do not care that he openly boasted about his disdain for darker skinned women. I don’t even care that he encouraged his Asian girlfriend to join him in these sentiments. I know two things: Clark was unarmed and he had committed no crime.
Have we forgotten how colorism and anti-Black sentiments came to be so prevalent in our communities in the first place? Let’s be frank, this hierarchy existed long before we had the freedom to choose our mates. Some of us are the complexions we are today because our dark-skinned fathers strategically pursued and dated fair-skinned women and many of our mothers dated our dark-skinned fathers out of rebellion. Many of us still have family members that check the ears of newborn babies to determine how dark they might get. How many Black children are still instructed to avoid playing in the sun in the summertime? God forbid a Black child get any “Blacker.” Between our older brother who only dates “exoticals” and our best friend who religiously buys her foundation four shades too light, we are all dealing with colorism in some way, whether consciously or subconsciously, publicly or privately. We didn’t create this issue, but we are all victims of the system that did, Stephon Clark included.
Many millennials find themselves reprogramming their minds to find beauty in phenotypically African features like darker skin, wider noses, fuller lips and kinkier hair textures. How much growing could Stephon Clark have done between March 18th, 2018 and his 25th birthday? What type of father could he have been by his 30th birthday? We’ll never know and that alone is the greatest tragedy. What are we saying by using the old social media posts of a deceased 22-year-old to determine the value of his life? Since when did ”wokeness” become a prerequisite for due process in this country? If perfection is a requirement for justice I think we’re all in a lot of trouble. If you were to die today, leaving your young sons to sift through your digital remains, what skeletons would they find? How many of our Black sons would be shocked to see how their mothers talk about Black men? How many “niggas ain’t shit” posts would your son have to scroll past to accurately assess your worth? How many “Black men are trash” posts would it take to completely devalue your life? If our value can be summed up by the way we speak about and treat other Black men and women, very few of our lives are worth marching for.
Alton Sterling was a woman beater and a sex offender. Terence Crutcher had the hallucinogenic drug PCP in his system at the time of his encounter with police. Walter Scott owed more than $18,000 in child support. Eric Harris was illegally selling firearms. Eric Garner was a married father of four, carrying on an extramarital affair with his live-in girlfriend and mother to his youngest daughter. The problem is not that these men were less than stellar members of the community, the problem is that their names are on the growing list of unarmed Black men killed by police in the first place. The problem is that all these men were denied the very basic right to life, as countless other Black men and women have. As Stephon Clark was.
And let’s not pretend like these men weren’t victims of a corrupt system long before they were killed. Having the displeasure of growing up in a society that psychologically and emotionally abused and mistreated them and then punished them for their scars. I won’t be fooled into playing respectability politics. Not when it comes to women and sexual assault and rape, not when it comes to the LGBTQ community and the systemic stonewalling of stereotyped members, and certainly not when it comes to Black men and police brutality. Stephon Clark was a 22-year-old black man growing up in Sacramento, CA. A graduate of Sacramento High School, Clark was a father to two young sons, ages 1 and 3. On the evening of March 18, 2018, Stephon Clark lost his life to a barrage of bullets at the hands of the Sacramento Police Department. Struck by 8 of the 20 bullets fired, Stephon Clark had committed no crime and was unarmed. The police had no screenshots, they had no tweets, they had no receipts to justify their angst. They killed a young black man simply for being Black. Black like my Black father. Black like your Black husband. Black like our Black sons. Black like Stephon Clark’s two sons. For these reasons alone, I will fight for Stephon Clark.