By Howard Portnoy
“Spoon Rivers Anthology” it ain’t. And not just because the vast majority of imagined obits in the“Black Obituary Project” are of a piece, beginning with the same self-serving boilerplate: “[Dead person’s name here] was unarmed when shot and killed in conflict with local police officers.” No black shot to death by police has ever been armed, attempting to flee the scene of a crime, resisted arrest, etc.
The bigger problem is evident in the prologue:
The Black Obituary Project is a collaborative undertaking by a swath of Black folk, designed to convey the reality of state-sanctioned violence and its residual impact.
The authors of these pre-written obituaries, all of whom are living at this point and time, serve to evidence the ease with which Black people conceive of their own death….
Apart from the flatulent prose, the notion that oy is “easy” for “Black people [to] conceive of their own death” is not just simplistic, but dangerous. Anyone associated with the project ever hear of self-fulfilling prophecies?
But the biggest problem of all, which links this movement inextricably to another, Black Lives Matter, is the self-denial. Consider:
Black people pose a greater threat to each other than police officers do, according to FBI Homicide statistics. In 2015, 2,664 black people were murdered; 89% of those murders were committed by other blacks.
One study conducted found that officers were three times less likely to shoot an unarmed black person than an unarmed white person.
The last thing blacks in this country need right now is to feel angrier than they already are — especially about fatal run-ins with the law that have happened only in their fevered nightmares.