Bobby’s death is a tragedy worthy of national attention, but so is his life. He was a poster child for issues that disproportionately impact young black men and the black community: poverty, crime, death by gun. Yet too often these things are discussed as statistics and not as human tragedies.
Bobby was no saint. He made decisions and was in the process of adding to his criminal record the night he died. That shouldn’t cloud the fact that he was just a 15-year-old child. And he was a victim before Hastings ever fired a shot.
We are all failing countless young black kids who are caught up in a cycle of poverty, crime and violence. But accepting that responsibility and embracing young, troubled kids as victims is a much more difficult and uncomfortable conversation to have. It’s easier to rally around an innocent kid wearing a hoodie who has Skittles in his pocket than it is to sympathize with or to understand a kid driving a stolen car. But that’s exactly what we have to do.
One child’s death is no more or less tragic than the other. But in an interview after the first Hastings trial, a juror claimed that during deliberations, one holdout for conviction said Hastings was “preventing future crimes” by killing Bobby. That is downright scary. Once again, we ask how much value is placed on young black life in this country.
After prosecutors dropped charges against Hastings, the Little Rock NAACP released a statement pledging to “sound the alarm when people are so blatantly denied justice.” That’s a fine and worthy cause. But we can’t forget to also remain diligent in sounding the alarm about the plight of young black men before they’re dead.