Last Saturday night, US postal worker Tyson Jerome Barnette, 26, was shot and killed while delivering mail in suburban DC. Barnette, who had been a mail carrier for six years, was a black man.
Police said that around 7:20 p.m. officers were called to the 1600 block of Reed Street for reports of a shooting. When they arrived, they found Barnette suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials said detectives are working to identify the suspect or suspects and a motive in this case.Let's see if we can piece together a possible motive, shall we?
One resident of the street said he was returning home just as the carrier had finished placing mail into the letter box at his house.It's entirely possible in this vast universe of infinite possibilities that there is some other explanation for a black postal worker being shot and killed on his route, followed by locals reporting that he didn't respond to hollers and media diligently reporting he wasn't "the regular carrier," besides rank racism. But I'm not particularly interested in playing a game of Occam's Big Paisley Tie. The most likely explanation is violence resulting from racism.
He said the worker was not the regular carrier, and when he called to him, he did not respond.
The man took his mail and went into his house. Within minutes, the man said, he heard two or three gunshots.
When I start hearing people talking about how a person of color failed to respond to them in their expected way, and about how a person of color wasn't the "regular" person they expected to see, what I see are narratives that neatly fit into a pattern of lived segregation. Racial segregation and/or class segregation. That person wasn't supposed to be here.
That is a story that we hear over and over in racist slayings. Neighborhood watchmen. Police. Old white men on their front porches. That person wasn't supposed to be here. Or: That person wasn't supposed to be acting like that.
Othering. Lack of belonging. Judgment. Scrutinized behavior found to be suspicious. Standing your ground against the interloper.
This shit is part and parcel of living in segregation from one another. I am not scared or suspicious or filled with explosive urges toward vigilantism when I see someone who is not the same color, or not precisely the same socioeconomic class, as I am walking down the sidewalk, because I don't live in a place where everyone is the same.
There are people who sneer at the idea of diversity "for diversity's sake." Those people don't understand that diversity is never for its own sake. Integration and visibility translate into safety for marginalized people. Belonging can be a matter of life and death in a kyriarchy rife with guns.
[H/T to Elle.]