Strange fruit: Young men of color found hanged
SUSAN K. SMITH | 3/16/2017, 12:51 p.m.
Crazy Faith Ministries
Police and community members in Lake Stevens, Washington, are being careful about calling the death of 18-year-old Ben Keita a lynching.
Keita, a Muslim, was found hanging from a tree this week after disappearing in November of last year. His death was at first said to have been a suicide, but Keita’s family urged the medical examiner to reconsider. Keita had no history of depression, anxiety or any other emotional condition, his family said, according The Root.
He vanished without his car, wallet or phone. His family immediately sensed that the suicide call was incorrect. As of now, his cause of death is being ruled “undetermined.”
Keita’s death is a reminder that America’s racial hatred is as deep and as deadly as it has ever been. In 2014, the body of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy, an African American high school student, was found hanging in an open space, surrounded by a trailer park in Bladenboro, North Carolina. His death, again, was ruled a suicide, but his mother refuted the claim, CNN reported.
She said he was excited about playing a football the next day; he was focused on football and the prospect of going to college. He had been dating a 31-year-old White woman, a fact that bothered many in Lacy’s community.
Some have conjectured that Lacy’s hanging was staged – that he was beaten and killed somewhere else. He left his home that night wearing a new pair of size 12 Jordan sneakers, but when he was found, a pair of shoes two sizes too small were on his feet.
Suicide doesn’t add up for Lacy, and suicide isn’t adding up for the hanging of Keita.
With the new U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, there is little hope that federal intervention and investigation in these types of deaths will be authorized. And it is a fact that local police departments in the South have shown little interest in investigating these deaths and bringing justice to those who commit the crimes.
America’s racism has not gotten less virulent, but has “evolved,” as Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, has said. The racial hatred that was spewed during the 2016 presidential campaign was impossible to ignore; the spate in hate crimes since the election has increased, with Muslims, Jews, Blacks, transgender men and women and immigrants being targeted.
Even as the administration says it is doing all it can to “make America safe,” it is clear that the protection is only sought for certain people or groups of people. The sad reality is that the murders of people who are not considered to be part of the majority population inspire little passion for justice and many to most of them remain unsolved.
It is clear that the work of seeking protection from the injustice caused by White supremacy is not over; with this new administration, it has begun anew. People of color and of different religions need not expect protection from the federal government, and too many parents and families will have to carry the burden of not realizing justice for their loved ones in addition to their grief.
It is America’s song, America’s legacy, and America’s unfortunate and real history.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith speaks on the intersection of race, religion and politics and is available for speaking.