Black Americans are in a perpetual state of mourning. Killed by Police, a digital database of dead victims of police violence, estimates that police officers killed 1,186 people in 2015. The numbers affirm what we already know. Our lives are in peril. We are in danger whenever we’re in churches, parks, corner stores, and parking lots. We’re unsafe whenever we leave our homes, and in the case of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, whenever we’re sleeping on our couches. Legal justice is rare for those killed at the hands of state-sanctioned violence, even when the victim is a child.

Yesterday, a Cleveland, Ohio grand jury declined to bring charges against the police officers responsible for killing Tamir Rice. Tamir Rice, 12, was playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park on November 22, 2014 when officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback drove their patrol car on the sidewalk where he was standing. Officer Loehmann immediately unloaded several bullets into Rice’s body. Rice’s death, like so many others, was captured on video. It took 13 months for prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty to deny Rice’s family justice.

In the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision, Rice’s name trended on Twitter as thousands of people communally grieved the loss of another Black child. As Rice’s name ascended the trending topics list, so did other names and titles, including vh1’s slate of reality shows, including Love & Hip-Hop New York and Black Ink Crew Chicago.

R&B singer Melanie Fiona was appalled that Rice’s name was trending beneath the titles of vh1’s popular reality programs. She unleashed several tweets that chided Twitter users for being “#notwoke.”

Melanie’s decision to advocate for Rice’s family on her platform of more than 600,000 followers is commendable. However, her attempt to deride Twitter users for seeking an escape from consistent grief is, in a word, ridiculous. Black folks are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Watching Love & Hip-Hop New York doesn’t negate concern for Rice’s death, as many Twitter users discussed Rice and reality television at the same time.

Offering the “we should be more concerned” line is no different than the “why aren’t Black people outraged about Black-on-Black crime” fallacy. It belies the truth. It also criticizes African-Americans instead of the system we’re all railing against.

Furthermore, asking traumatized Black folks to dedicate their energies to death is unreasonable. We’re bombarded with hashtags and videos and consistent disregard for our lives. We leave our homes knowing that we could die if we forget to signal when we switch lanes or if our music’s volume is deemed too loud. The hovering cloud of death that pervades the Black experience shouldn’t also strip us of our desire to experience happiness.

Black people are entitled to joy. A part of liberation is offering Black folks space to experience the full range of humanness, which includes happiness and pleasure. We’ve felt pain, sadness, and anger for centuries. Aren’t we allowed to laugh?

We reside in a world that’s intent on othering and exterminating us. Finding peace, happiness, and pleasure is as much our birth right as receiving legal justice. Exercising that right isn’t an indication that we don’t care about Black death. Instead, it proves that we’re human, something the police refuse to recognize time and time again.

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  • lis

    A little overwrought aren’t you….and who the heck wants to watch any of that reality garbage?….don’t you all criticize that garbage yourselves….she’s right.

  • blogdiz

    You really are reaching with this one , I agree that black folks can walk and chew gum at the same time and people are free to watch what they like but your quantum leap than Fiona is ” chiding black people for seeking joy ” is based on the faulty assumption that all black people associate these shows with ” Joy’ ? Really
    Maybe Fiona like many of us me in included associate those shows with ratchet waste of time TV that glorifies the actual worst of human behavior
    Get over yourself