Who was Emmett Till?
Why is his name important?
Most people today, especially given the current state of social unrest in the world, will recognize names such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake. Names whose cries for justice resonate within the hearts and minds of those weary, tired, yet resolute in their passion for change. The fight for freedom. The right to be treated as human beings.
Emmett Till. Say. His. Name.
14 years old when his life was violently taken from him by two white men with hatred in their hearts. Enough hatred to beat, lynch, mutiliate a child for allegedly whistling at a white woman. A crime punishable by death.
What is even more horrifying than the act itself is the fact that both men were acquitted, as if Emmett Till’s life meant. NOTHING.
What type of a world do we live in that this heinous crime could be commited?
That there were people who believed this crime was justified?
Our World. This world is not a fictitious world, where children can be murdered for nothing other than being Black.
The world we currently live in. A world that has not really changed.
Emmett Till’s death happened 65 years ago, yet the echoes of the past are louder than ever.
In Jewell Parker Rhodes’ book, Ghost Boys, a young boy named Jerome is shot and killed by a white cop who harbours the same internalized racist ideas as Emmett Till’s killers. His “crime?”
Playing with a toy gun his friend gave him. Doing what many children do. Playing.
In a moment, he is gone. He becomes a ghost who witnesses the pain and devastation of his death on his community and family. He becomes yet another Ghost Boy, another Black life taken too soon. Taken because of anti-Black racism.
Enter Emmett Till. One of the Ghost Boys who helps Jerome make sense of his death and his purpose for still roaming the earth. Jerome is meant to understand how historical racism led to his death. How things have not really changed. Jerome also encounters the daughter of the cop who killed him. She too, struggles to make sense of her father’s actions.
This book should be required reading in every classroom and household. It is not only a children’s book, but one many adults should read as well. It is relevant and necessary now more than ever. The issues explored in Ghost Boys are unchanged.
Racism is a virus, one that has infected the very fabric of our society. It harkens back to a time when Europeans constructed the idea of race and all the negative beliefs surrounding being Black to justify slavery, to justify the exploitation of human beings solely for profit.
Emmett Till should never be forgotten. All of the Ghost Boys, Girls, Men and Women, whose lives were stolen from them based on senseless acts of white supremacy, based on the belief that they were not enough, that their lives were worthless.
These human beings had names, a future, a right to live, a right to exist.
Say. Their. Names.