Sadly the year ended and began with trouble in one of the most famous and beautiful cities in the world. In January, the world was stunned when Muslim extremists stormed the building where satire magazine Charlie Hedbo had their offices, killing 12 staffers. The killers said that the magazine’s parodies of Muslims were blasphemous and that they were acting on behalf of a segment of Al-Queda.
The two brothers in the attacks were shot to death by police. On Friday, November 13, 130 patrons of bars and restaurants, including 89 enjoying a concert at the Bataclan concert hall by the American band Eagles of Death Metal, were shot by a squad of assassins. Though the ringleader was shot dead, one of the attackers is still on the loose. ISIS took responsibility.
As Parisians mourned, the rest of the world, still debating how best to deal with the million-plus refugees fleeing war-torn Syria as ISIS moved in, wondered just how far-reaching ISIS was becoming. They soon found out, after 14 people were killed in a workplace mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. The American born-shooter, employed by a federal agency, and his foreign-born wife, had become radicalized and carried out the attack in the name of radical Islam.
2. Gun Violence
In 2015, the reality of mass shootings in America, without any specific radical inspiration, became apparent as multiple victim shootings became a regular occurrence.
In one of the most shocking examples, when a group of worshipers at Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina welcomed a young white man into the nation’s oldest Black church to pray with them, he ultimately opened fire on them, killing nine people. Charleston was rocked, as was the nation, as the shooter admitted that he purposely targeted a Black church in the hopes of starting a race war.
Ferguson, Missouri would not prove to be the last of police-involved shootings and deaths in America. Since Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Walter Scott in South Carolina, and several more, including Laquan McDonald, (shot by police last November but only revealed this year) have been gunned down. This led to an uprising in Baltimore and protests in Cleveland, Chicago and Minneapolis.
Although six police officers were indicted in the Gray case, the trial of the first officer, William Porter, ended in a hung jury. He will be tried again in June. Added to that was the rape conviction of former Oklahoma City policeman Daniel Holtzclaw, who preyed on vulnerable African-American women on the margins of society thinking he would evade prosecution. He didn’t. As of this writing, Chicago police have just killed two more people in an officer-involved shooting that took place after a father called for assistance with a combative son.
In one of the year’s more disturbing news trends, several mothers were accused of or convicted of killing their children. The most sickening of these cases involved an abusive Detroit mother who killed two of her young children and stuffed them in a freezer with the knowledge of other children living in her household. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only example of mothers killing – not one, but two women in New York City killed newborns or infants by throwing them out of apartment building windows.
Suburban Georgia provided one of the most perplexing news stories of the year. In September, Yvonne and Zachary Ervin were attacked by their 17-year-old son Cameron and his 22-year-old brother, Christopher in an attempt to kill them. The Ervins lived in affluent suburb and as there were no previous reports of domestic violence of any kind, nor did either of the sons have a record, police, their parents and our readers were completely baffled by the crime. The parents say they forgive their sons, who remain in jail.
Most people thought any presidential campaign by Donald Trump would be a joke. But the joke’s on them, as the always quotable Trump has proven to be the frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race thus far. He’s certainly controlled the 24-hour news cycle, despite his tendency to be racist, misogynistic and Islamaphobic.
Although it was believed the 2016 election would be a two-way race between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, the rise of Trump has left the former in the margins of the race and the latter on the defense. Can Trump take his angry white man spiel all the way to the Oval Office? We’ll soon see.
7. Black Activism
Ferguson. Cleveland. Baltimore. Chicago. Minneapolis. Black Lives Matter’s legitimacy was only strengthened by the constant assault by police in cities around the nation on Black bodies. Not only did the police killings of unarmed Black men and women continue, federal investigations and journalism exposès in Cleveland, in Baltimore and in Ferguson documented a pattern of racist policing and policy that permeated departments large and small.
Activists took to the streets, to social media and to the political campaign trail, holding candidates’ feet to the fire and keeping attention focused on the dereliction of duty in many police departments that paid lip service to serving and protecting but instead killed those they were sworn to help.
8. Sandra Bland
After a traffic stop in Texas turned into a verbal altercation, 28-year-old Sandra Bland likely didn’t expect that would also mean the end of her life. Though police said she hung herself in jail when her family couldn’t immediately bond her out, both the traffic stop itself as well as what seemed like the suspicious circumstances of her death had many convinced that something happened to Bland while in custody.
Bland illustrated the fact that Black women are also on the front lines of police brutality and any movement to eradicate police brutality must include them as well. Though the grand jury has decided not to indict the Sheriff’s office or the jail in Bland’s death, there may still be a chance for charges to be filed against the original arresting officer.
What is blackness? Is it something that you can choose? That was the dilemma of observers in the Rachel Dolezal situation. Dolezal, the head of the Spokane NAACP had been passing – for Black. Born white to white parents, Dolezal said that she lived her life as a Black woman, even after attending – and suing Howard University – as a white one.
Dolezal spawned a hilarious Twitter hashtag #AskRachel that provided a list of questions that a truly Black woman would know the answers to. We’re not sure if Rachel was able to get most of them right, but she was soon forced to admit that she had, indeed, been born biologically white. Writer and Black Lies Matter activist Shaun King, was also questioned about his racial identity. Despite denying his critics, his answers remained vague.
As they wind down their time in the White House, the Obamas remain in the high-beam spotlight. When President Obama got testy with critics of his ISIS strategy he used the term ‘pop off’ and set the internet afire. When Malia Obama was potentially caught near a game of Beer pong during a college visit, that made headlines as did Sasha when a high school dance picture that may or may not have been of her surfaced on Instagram.
As for Black Twitter, they continued to provide a space for instant celebrity shade and slander, serious social activism, Black solidarity and often biting critiques of mainstream society’s overt racism. Best hashtags this year: #OscarsSoWhite #AskRachel #BlackLivesMatter #ThanksgivingClapBacks #SlowBlackTracks and #StayMadAbby.