The death of 23-year-old Richard Collins III was what we feared when Donald Trump was elected this past November. It wasn’t because of economic insecurity, or because of identity politics, or whatever else well-paid white writers got to opine about from their positions of privilege. We feared loss. We knew that racists who have already been allowed to nurture and grow their hate, would be even more emboldened by a Trump White House. We knew that people were going to die as a direct response to his election.
Collins was murdered over the weekend at the University of Maryland. A white student named Sean Christopher Urbanski was charged with the murder. University of Maryland Police said that Urbanski is a member of a racist Facebook group. They discovered this, they told The Baltimore Sun, not through their own investigation, but because they were tipped off (how often are police monitoring online hate, anyway?). Somehow, the suspect's participation in the group isn't enough for police to designate Collin's murder as a hate crime. So far, they've said they, along with FBI officials, are investigating. Urbanski is facing first-degree murder charges and is being held without bail.
Collins' loss feels especially painful because he was so young, vital, strong. He was literally in the physical prime of his life. He was due to graduate from Bowie State University this week. He was also commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army last Thursday.
Rev. Darryl L. Godlock, who is serving as a spokesperson for the family, said of Collins, that he wasn't a thug, that he had hopes and dreams and, above all, loved God.
On Thursday, when Collins was still alive, Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby was found not guilty in the caught on video death of Terence Crutcher last September. She shot Crutcher as he was walking away from her with his hands above his head and had been facing first-degree murder charges. The Associated Press reports that there were eight women and four men on the jury, and just three black people.
"She's ready to get back to her life," Shelby's attorney told them.
This time of year is often a time of fullness and happiness. Moreso, I think, if you're black. Facebook and Instagram are filled with pictures of young people graduating from high schools, from college, from graduate degree programs—looking glowing and happy as they go off to prom in their finery or off to graduation in their caps and gowns.
These degrees aren't just achievements. They are the payoff for the sometimes grueling work of parenthood. They provide time to step away and brag a bit after the physical work of pregnancy, the money spent on football teams, and new clothes, and haircuts, and school supplies. It's a time to take stock of all the work that goes into helping guide an innocent, helpless baby into full grown adulthood.
Graduations are also, we hope, some measure of protection against the Shelbys and the Urbanskis of the world. Maybe a better job means more income, a nicer neighborhood, and an easier way to duck the danger that is inherent in our skin and hair.
It's also important to remember Collins' murder isn't the first hate-fueled death under Trump, nor will his be the last. Look also in the immigrant detention centers. Look for officers emboldened by Jeff Sessions' calls for a return to zero-tolerance policing. Look for poor people who go without medication or a visit to the doctor because they can't afford it.
This is what we feared.