When Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he would not press charges against Matt Kenny, the police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Tony Robinson, I didn’t really know how to react. At this point outrage is just exhausting,
The death of Tony Robinson and the decision not to charge Officer Kenny feels like one more reminder that the lives of unarmed black men in this country are expendable.
I know that cops have a difficult job. But taking a life should not be at the top of their list of options, when there are so many other weapons at their disposal. Certainly, as we’ve seen in cities across the country, cops have been far too eager to bring guns into the equation when dealing with unarmed blacks.
Here is what blacks know about the system of justice in this country: It was not designed for us.
Furthermore, over the last forty years it has continually failed to protect the basic rights of black people and other minorities. Look at the fallacy of colorblind drug laws that disproportionately affect blacks and Supreme Court decisions sanctioning educational segregation as further proof of these things. The system may work swell for the average white Joe, but it’s overwhelmingly obvious that the deck is stacked against you if you happen to be black in America.
Another thing that is exhausting about this situation is listening to people justifying the murders of men like Robinson under the assumption that we are all held to the same standard of justice, which is an absolute falsehood. These are the same people who try to undermine the statement “Black Lives Matter” with interjections of “All Lives Matter.” What they need to realize is that the way this country’s criminal justice system is set up and operated, and the death of unarmed blacks like Tony Robinson, shows that, in fact, black lives do not matter in this country.
What I hope comes out of this tragedy is that we finally do something about trigger-happy cops and that we begin to take seriously the slogan that black lives matter. More importantly, I hope we can begin to do something to change both the structural racism of the American criminal justice system and the circumstances that led to the death of Tony Robinson.
Miles Brown is a student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Image credit: Julia Burke