A Black Life Should Be Worth More Than a Bottle of Water
An essay about the murder of 14-year-old Cyrus Carmack-Belton
Anti-Black racism is an undercurrent in American society, a pervaisive ideology flowing in the opposite direction of the values our nation purports to hold near and dear, like equality, liberty, and progress. All too often, pervaisive stereotypes about Black criminality contribute to a shoot-first-ask-questions-later type of environment that endangers Black lives. And this is not an ideology limited to White people. People of color who buy into racial stereotypes contribute to the violence Black people endure. For instance, Rick Chow, a 58-year-old Asian-American gas station owner, fatally shot Cyrus Carmack-Belton, a 14-year-old Black teenager, in the back Sunday, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Office. While Chow, the store owner, claimed Cyrus attempted to steal four bottles of water, his accusation was baseless. Cyrus did not steal anything from the Shell gas station, but the irony isn't lost on the Black community that his life was stolen, along with any hopes, dreams, and aspirations he had, experiences he could have enjoyed with family and friends. State Representative Todd Rutherford said Cyrus was "chased down like an animal."
While the Richland County Sherriff's Office arrested Rick Chow following the shooting, Veronica Hill, a department spokesperson, asserted that investigators found "no evidence that suggests racial bias was a factor," a claim that doesn't hold water. Their argument rests in the fact that the alleged shooter was Asian-American while the victim was Black. However, if Cyrus was a White or Asian-American teenager, it is unlikely Rick Chow would have assumed that he was stealing or that such a crime should have been punishable by death. Racial bias seemed to have played a major role in shaping the moments leading up to the shooting; the presumption that Cyrus, a 14-year-old, was engaged in criminal behavior stems from anti-Black racism. Time and time again, the assumptions people make about Black people put their lives in danger, and despite law enforcement’s claim, there is no credible way of deracializing Cyrus's death. While it’s a hard pill to swallow, some Americans don’t believe a Black life is worth the price of a few…