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They’ll give your killer water and ignore your gasps for air: An American love song is violent

Lasiya Lakes, 4, raised her fist in the air while chanting "Black Lives Matter" on Aug. 26 in Kenosha, Wisc.
Lasiya Lakes, 4, raised her fist in the air while chanting "Black Lives Matter" on Aug. 26 in Kenosha, Wisc.Brandon Bell/Getty

Do you count your life in years or do you know it can end in a minute?

What if you counted your life in bullets?

Seven shots in Kenosha.

Police will unload bullets into your back and tell the world your criminal record so folk can say you deserved to be gunned down by cops while your children watched.

They’ll say you had a knife in your car to justify the way they paralyzed you, Jacob Blake. But they’ll thank armed militia for countering the anti-brutality protest.

Police will give water to Kyle Rittenhouse, your killer, before he shoots you, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum. And after you die they will tell the world how he was cleaning walls before he shot you for protesting police brutality. They’ll barely say your names. You were white and fighting for Black lives, so they are burying you like they bury us.

Rittenhouse crossed state lines armed and ready to kill. But they’ll see him as a kid and a hero and a 17-year-old from Illinois. They never gave such grace to 12-year-old Tamir Rice or another 17-year old: Trayvon Martin.

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Ten shots in Lafayette.

Police fired at least 10 times as you walked away from them the day before. And your criminal record was immediately released, Trayford Pellerin. They said you had a knife, too. Anything to say you deserved to be shot to death.

But somehow, Dylann Roof slaughtered nine people in their house of worship, and was safely taken into custody. Dylann Roof was remembered as a sweet kid. He is 26. He prayed with his victims and killed them. He lives. Grace is flexible, I guess.

Eight shots in Louisville.

Police fired at least eight bullets into your body. You had been in bed. They burst into your home and shot you. And let you lay untouched for 20 minutes. You were an emergency medical technician, but no one cared to give you medical attention. They’ll list your injuries as none. Over 150 days later, we’ll still be fighting for your justice, Breonna Taylor. And because you’re both Black and a woman we took a long time to even say your name.

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Three shots in Atlanta.

An officer will fire his gun three times as you run away, Rayshard Brooks. You had been sleeping in your car at a Wendy’s drive-thru. You had been drinking and fell asleep. You took one of their tasers and ran. It was the day before your daughter’s birthday. Someone called the police on you for sleeping and now you’re dead.

Eight minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis.

An officer will rest his knee on your neck, George Floyd. He’ll ignore your pleas to breathe. All of the cops will let it happen. Witnesses will try to help. And after nearly nine minutes, and a cry for your mama, you’ll die. You will die and the world will cry for you. It will take fire and rage before your killers are arrested. Three of the four former cops are out on bail. At your funeral, the Rev. Al Sharpton will announce a March on Washington on Aug. 28.

Five minutes in New Jersey.

On my way to cover that march, I’ll pull over at a rest stop in New Jersey to pee. It’s 73 degrees. I crack the windows a few inches on each side of my car so my dog can get air. I hurry. I don’t get food because it’s packed and my dog is in the car. I go to let her out so she can relieve herself. A white woman will follow us in her car. She’ll tell me she called the police on me.

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She called the police because she believed my windows weren’t down far enough. She said she did it for the safety of my dog. She didn’t care about me. When I side-eye her she asks why I am mad. I say it’s a pandemic and the police are killing us. People are killing us. You called the police on me because I was gone five minutes?

She drives off. I leave, too scared to find out what happens if police come. I head to D.C.

On my way back to Boston I won’t drink an ounce of water. Do you know what that kind of fear feels like? Racism is killing us. They say we are a danger. But we are endangered.

So we will March on Washington on Friday, Aug. 28. Just like on Aug. 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. But we are still living a nightmare. We will protest brutality. You know, Emmett Till was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered on Aug. 28, 1955. He was 14. He was 14 and he was lynched. His death inspired boycotts.

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And we are still marching.

We will March on Washington. We will march for our lives. We will march for our dead. We will march forward. It will kill some of us. But we will march on.



Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.