“We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Releasing their first album in 1995, Goodie Mob became synonymous with southern storytelling. Their rhymes illustrated the complexities of inner city Atlanta and listeners always walked with a political, social or economic lesson. One lesson that sticks with me to this day occurs during the last 100 seconds of “Gutta Butta.” Cee-Lo is riding through Atlanta when he is robbed. His response is both unexpected and admirable.
Well, here, you can have it if you want it that bad that
You would try to take from me. My nigga I ain’t no star.
I value both of our lives more than this car.
You lucky nigga. I used to be you
I’d bust a hole in your chest somebody could see through.
Now remember, you could’ve died tonight,
And I would’ve been in the right.
I ain’t even pissed. You could just drop me off at the house,
Cause I ain’t ready die bout nothin like this.
“I value both of our lives more than this car.” At what point did it become acceptable to value stuff over human life. Lately, it seems common place for an individual to kill another over the theft of stuff…or even worse, the suspicion of burglary. In 1991, 15-year-old Latasha Harlins was accosted, attacked and shot in the back of the head because Soon Ja Du, a store owner, suspected she was stealing a bottle of juice. Latasha died on the store floor with $2 in her hand. The store owner received probation. In 2007, Hernando Riascos Torres and Diego Ortiz were murdered after burglarizing the home of Joe Horn’s neighbor. Joe shot them in the back as they were running away from the home, despite the 911 operator telling him not to get involved. In 2012, Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman after George followed and confronted Trayvon as he was walking home from the store. George was acquitted. And now there is Ricardo Sanes. Claudius Smith’s girlfriend saw Ricardo crossing their yard via a surveillance camera. Claudius, a victim of recent burglaries, hopped his fence and chased Ricardo down. A fight ensued. Ricardo died of a gunshot wound to the back. Smith has been arrested.
I could use this as an opportunity to illustrate how individuals and the United States justice system have a history of disregarding black life (Latasha, Trayvon and Ricardo were black. Hernando and Diego were Afro-Latino. Soon Ja is Korean, Joe is white, George is a white Hispanic, and Smith is black.), but I will refrain and stick to the topic at hand. These individuals lost their lives, not because their murderers were in fear of their lives, but because they were suspected of taking stuff. My heart and spirit have an extremely difficult time processing this. Stuff can be repurchased. Human life can’t. And at some point, we have to (re)learn to value human life (YES! even black life) over stuff.
Tupac said it best in “Something 2 Die 4.” “Latasha Harlins, remember that name…cause a bottle of juice is not something to die for.” Maybe one day America will learn to agree with Tupac and Cee-Lo.