On Tuesday, the same day Jacob Blake’s sister made a powerful plea to remember her brother’s humanity, Republicans were hard at work trying to dehumanize him. First came Sen. Lindsey Graham ,with classic victim-blaming techniques. “It's dangerous being a cop. I don't know why the gentleman didn't yield when he was asked to yield,” Graham said of Blake during a morning presser with the South Carolina Fraternal Order of Police. “I don't know what the facts are.”
Then came more slights at the Republican National Convention, like the Rev. Norma Urrabazo mentioning Blake's family in the opening prayer—only to quickly pivot to praying for police. "We pray for your protection over those who put their lives in harm's way to bring safety and security to our streets,” she said. Few, however, relied on the facts of Blake’s encounter to make their cases to viewers.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black security guard, was paralyzed from the waist down when Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officers fired at him at least seven times in front of his three children Sunday, officials said. A viral witness video showed authorities yelling at the man and some claimed he had a knife, but no official reports have confirmed that. His sister Letetra Widman spoke to reporters and community members Tuesday about who her brother is as a person.
"I am my brother's keeper," she said. "And when you say the name Jacob Blake, make sure you say father, make sure you say cousin, make sure you say son, make sure you say uncle, but most importantly, make sure you say: human.”
Widman used the media spotlight to not only bring attention to her brother’s case but that of the countless other Black men, women, and children who died in racist encounters. She mentioned, among others, Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955, allegedly for offending a white woman; and Sandra Bland, who was found hanging in a jail cell after being arrested on a traffic stop in Texas in 2015.
“This has been happening to my family, and I’ve shed tears for every single one of these people that it’s happened to,” Widman said. “This is nothing new. I’m not sad. I’m not sorry. I’m angry and I’m tired. I haven’t cried one time. I stopped crying years ago. I am numb. I have been watching police murder people that look like me for years.”
“I’m not sad. I don’t want your pity. I want change,” she later added.
That’s the same thing demonstrators and celebrities alike have been pushing leaders to champion across the country: true change. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers criticized fearmongering at the Republican National Convention in a moving postgame speech Tuesday. “All you hear are Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Rivers, a Black man, said. “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that were denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot, and all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.”
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