What Does a Victim’s GPA Have to do With Anything?

In the aftermath of the Jordan Edwards shooting, information has come out about his academic standing. Apparently, he was an excellent student with an impressive 3.5 grade point average. After seeing multiple tweets that called into question the relevance of this information, I recalled how this is such a prevalent trend. Media points out this information as if to say, unlike the others, Jordan Edwards did not deserve to die. We see this so often, in fact, it happens every time an unarmed black male is killed. Media digs into their background. They uncover every suspension, misbehavior, and especially missing fathers, as if the officer has this information when they pull the trigger. I remember this occurring after the death of Trayvon Martin. I was just as infuriated then as I am now.

I cannot fathom why people find the death of a black person to be any less deplorable if there is a stain on the victim’s background. It enrages me how media demonizes black victims, therefore turning them into suspects. They put the victim on trial instead of focusing on the real issue at hand, the police officer. Yet, we see that this time is a bit different. This time, people are sympathetic because of his respectability. It seems that his good qualities are being highlighted, making him a picture of innocence, as he should be. For once, a black victim is actually being depicted as a victim, but we can’t even celebrate since his victim status is derived from his respectability.

I predict that Black Lives Matter will use this depictiom to their advantage and perhaps make Jordan Edwards the new face of the movement. Throughout history we have seen that a movement always does better with a “spotless” face. The civil rights movement had Rosa Parks, an innocent woman minding her own business. Yet, Rosa Parks was not the first black woman who had been arrested for not giving up their bus seat. Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin. Her circumstances were the same, however, shortly after the incident she became pregnant, at fifteen, and out of wedlock. The movement decided that she was not “wholesome” enough to be the symbol for the many bus initiatives, including the Parks incident and the bus boycotts. I say this to point out that the issue of respectability is not a white problem. It is not something that only white people do. Black Americans are just as guilty, especially President Obama.

In “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation” Keeanga – Yamahtta Taylor discusses President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and his plea to black men to be fathers. Fatherhood is a theme that keeps coming up with Obama. When asked about race issues, he always gets it in there. I think that it is not as relevant as he tries to make it. Sure, it improves a child’s life to have a present father, but does it improve their chances with the police? No, because police officers have no way of knowing your parental status, your disciplinary record, and certainly not your grade point average when they encounter you. What they do know is your race. Often enough, that is enough information to make the final choice to end someone’s life.  

2 thoughts on “What Does a Victim’s GPA Have to do With Anything?

  • May 5, 2017 at 9:28 pm
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    One friend pointed out how this narrative could be flipped. Rather than proclaiming that one has to be respectable for their death be thought of as unjustified, he argued that the lesson of these incidents is that even if you are respectable, you have little to no control and are still at risk. I think this is a little bit of what you are getting at in the last paragraph. It is dismaying to say the least to see black humanity litigated over and over.

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  • May 5, 2017 at 10:54 pm
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    This is an awesome blog post, as I hadn’t really stopped to consider the full implications of the background information the media often latches onto. Your sentence in the second paragraph — “They put the victim on trial instead of focusing on the real issue at hand, the police officer” — is especially powerful, and infuriating to me, too. The fact of the matter stands, the police killed an innocent man — no matter what his GPA was.

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