We seem to have forgotten that death is as sacred as life.
The taking of life is, as every faith tradition has held for millennia, the ultimate violation.
Yet for us, it has become a daily staple of our entertainment, our conversations, our civic and national budgets, even our menus. Our media obsession with the taking of life (whether fictional or under the guise of “news”) literally defines our culture and era. And nothing captures our attention, passion, clicks, and eyeballs more than the portrayals of Black deaths at the hands of white vigilantes – those “enforcers,” authorized or not, acting as judge, jury, and executioner on behalf of white society and values against those Black offenders who dare to walk or drive or work or shop alongside white society.
Their “crime” of course, is the belief that they can and do “belong.” Police and policing-white-citizens do their best to enforce (by force if they can) white purity of existence in every school or park or workplace. They do it out of a sense of duty. It might be a duty few of us can comprehend, but it is a duty that drives and defines them.
A century ago, public lynching served that purpose. Today it is the relentless broadcast, and rebroadcast, of Black deaths – the literal murders of Black adults and children – that are “difficult to watch” as our media so delicately puts it. Yet, “viral” is what they become.
And like those public, sometimes even festive, lynchings that celebrated and anchored in the souls and hearts of Blacks and whites alike the sheer unrelenting code of white supremacy, these video clips tie us together in a common destiny, a common identity—one that will haunt us like a crowd of white hoods emerging from the darkness, torches in hand.
It becomes pain on parade, and why? Is it because we are addicted to outrage? Is it because we hope to change someone’s mind with gory evidence? Or because we imagine that the blood of others, taken and shared publicly like some crazed communion, will somehow redeem us?
It never does and it never will.
But like an addict, all we want is more. Like a dystopian horror movie that never ends, we can’t look away and we can’t stop. Except that we must.
Our humanity demands that we treat every life as sacred. Every religion tells us not to kill, yet we exult in death and blood, rarely recognizing that it is not the blood of others that heals and restores us. It is the blood of the Creator, the Giver of life, that surges within us and comes from a common source, leading to a common destiny, if only we would follow it.
“By the Blood,” early Christians used to say. Not the blood of others, not blood on our hands, not blood spilled, but the blood that unites and defines us, that lifts us up by and with our shared humanity.
Black deaths, all deaths, are sacred.
No death, from Roman coliseum to Aztec human sacrifice to modern newsroom or film screen or Facebook post is entertainment – it is a piercing and haunting reminder of the distance between our lived humanity and the divine calling of living as if we, and every face we see, were created in the image of the living God.
The media we ingest and share is a reflection of who we are. Our screens are mirrors of our collective souls which will find no peace until the blood – and breath – of every one of us is recognized as sacred.