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I want I’d by no means identified Ma’Khia Bryant’s identify. Ideally, our solely digital encounter would have gone one thing like this: A TikTok-fluent teen, she uploads a hair-tutorial video wherein she succinctly and expertly lays her child hairs and pulls her curls right into a facet ponytail. A 27-year-old millennial, I watch the video on my cellphone whereas mendacity in mattress, my very own tangle of hair tucked beneath a bonnet. I discover how she locations her finger with the intention to swoop her child hairs simply so, and make a psychological notice to strive the method myself someday. I “like” the put up, put it aside to a set titled “hair,” and preserve scrolling. Possibly my engagement would have been another small piece of optimistic suggestions, encouraging her to make one other video, and one other, as a result of she would have had time.

As an alternative, I discovered Ma’Khia Bryant’s identify like everybody else when final week she was shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio (simply minutes earlier than the decision was launched within the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis). Based on her mom, 16-year-old Bryant had known as the police looking for their assist in breaking apart a battle. As an alternative, as soon as they arrived, an officer shot her within the chest after she appeared to lunge at one other woman with a knife.

Like so many different individuals who have died by the hands of police, Ma’Khia’s life has been collapsed into these moments surrounding her demise. Her picture has been splashed throughout newspapers and protest indicators, hashtags reminding us to #sayhername. The video of the incident made the rounds on-line, and virtually instantly, folks started to debate whether or not her holding a knife was grounds for a police officer to kill her inside seconds of arriving on the scene.

To counter this narrative, others started sharing the hair tutorials Bryant had uploaded on TikTok. In each, a wordless Ma’Khia will be seen conditioning and brushing by way of her thick hair earlier than slicking it into area buns or tying accent braids to border her face, throughout a backing observe of neo-soul or ’90s R&B. I not watch movies of Black folks being killed by police, however seeing these movies of Ma’Khia alive and joyful felt virtually as gutting.

In them I see not simply the carefree innocence of an adolescent, not simply the hallmarks of an totally quotidian life — the bunk beds within the background, the reasonably priced beauty-supply-store merchandise she used — I additionally see the potential of a life snuffed out so quickly. It’s tough to explain the precision it takes to essentially lay your edges flat in opposition to your brow in order that they appear purposeful and never simply greasy. However Ma’Khia had mastered it. She knew which merchandise to make use of to make her curl sample outlined and never frizzy. She might apply false eyelashes! At 16, I used to be struggling to tame my hair with a scarf.

These movies, and what occurred to their protagonist, are a reminder that police violence can penetrate even the sacred on-line areas I go to. Pure-hair movies, and the group constructed up round them, have been a needed balm amid all the opposite tough information I devour. Ladies like Ma’Khia have been there to point out me tips on how to lastly obtain a wash-and-go and tips on how to stretch my hair with out warmth, and to remind me to trim my ends typically. We created a little bit world of product suggestions and life hacks only for us.

By educating each other tips on how to fashion our hair — hair that for therefore lengthy has been deemed tough and ugly by a world centered on whiteness — we present love to at least one one other. We are saying, “Hey, sis, take a look at how cute I look! You possibly can appear to be this too.” This information sharing is a unprecedented, banal reward that Black girls give to at least one one other. That an agent of the state would take certainly one of us from the group, and somebody so younger who had a lot left to provide, is a outstanding act of violence whose results ripple far out to locations and time immeasurable.

Ma’Khia had a real eye for design. I ponder what she would have finished with this ability as she bought older, how else she would flourish if she had been allowed to. Her mom said that she had simply made the respect roll. Possibly Ma’Khia had a knack for biology. Possibly she was a talented author. What else might she have finished together with her skills? Who might she have been in her group, and what extra might it have poured into her? All of those questions with out solutions, as a result of the police took these choices from her.

These potentialities are what get obscured when even a well-meaning public turns victims of police violence into symbols of a complete structural drawback. In lower than a yr from the day a Black man in Minneapolis suffocated beneath the knee of a police officer, the identify “George Floyd” has grow to be shorthand for a legacy of racist police violence, a global protest movement in opposition to that legacy, and 100 completely different company entities’ pledges to “reckon with” that legacy. The flattening of a person into an emblem is how we get Nancy Pelosi thanking Floyd for his “sacrifice,” when all he needed was to purchase some cigarettes on Memorial Day. It’s how we get the memeification of a girl who was shot to demise in her sleep.

I’m not positive how laborious all of us observers actually attempt to think about these victims in all of the fullness and complexity their lives contained. How earnestly we attempt to grasp the reality that Black folks killed by police are neither threats with superhuman strength nor pious martyrs giving their lives over to a bigger trigger. They’re unusual, fallible individuals who might or will not be involved with doing their hair. In Ma’Khia Bryant’s TikToks, we’re afforded a brief glimpse of a three-dimensional life. We now have an opportunity to honor the fullness of that life, and never simply its finish.

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