The issue of police violence against African Americans has once again reemerged in the national conscience after the killing of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards by police officers in a suburb of Dallas, Texas over the weekend. An outpouring of emotion and remembrance has flooded social media as people across the country mourn Edwards' young life, which many point to as part of the pattern of systemic violence against African Americans.
The incident occurred on the night of April 29, when Edwards was allegedly attending a house party. The Balch Springs Police Department went to the scene after reports of underaged drinking were called in to the station. Details surrounding the shooting are still emerging, including the name of the officer who fired at Edwards, but according to a recently-amended report by the Balch Springs P.D., Edwards was fatally shot in the head by a police rifle while the car was driving away from the officer. According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, Edwards is the 105th black person to be killed by police in the United States in 2017 so far.
A recurring controversy in the dialogue around Edwards' death is the publication of his achievements. On the one hand, Edwards was so young that he didn't get the chance to define himself outside of school yet. Yet as an honor student, his academic success was something to take incredible pride in. However, Edwards' achievements shouldn't be the only reason to mourn his death. He was, by all accounts, a smart and kind young man with a bright future, but whether or not he was an honor student shouldn't factor into the pain from the loss of his life.
Unfortunately, these incidents of police violence towards young black men and women have become so common that people have prior experience to shape the discourse toward a more constructive and life-affirming narrative. In the last several years, the prominent deaths of other black Americans at the hands of police, including Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Travyon Martin, Tamir Rice, and many more, have taught the country a lot about honoring these victims. This training (so to speak) in tragedy will hopefully preserve Edwards' legacy as an innocent child who suffered the worst from a broken system, which is the least he deserves. These tributes to Edwards' life show that the understanding of the essential human dignity that he needs to be treated with in death.