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Just Donovan: Yet Another Shooting Of An Unarmed Black Man Reminds Me Why I Left America

A young Black writer, Cole Ezeilo, reflects on the police killing of Donovan Lewis— who was shot by cops in Columbus, Ohio while in bed— and why he left America years ago.
Just Donovan: Yet Another Shooting Of An Unarmed Black Man Reminds Me Why I Left America
Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

It’s miraculous how numb I’ve made myself. 

How the news of yet another unarmed young Black man killed by the police becomes white noise when you grow up in a Black body. 

Donovan Lewis. Twenty years old. Shot in his bed on August 30th, 2022 at around 2 am in Columbus, Ohio.

No firearms were found in the home. 

And even with these facts, I am still searching for more information to justify the murder of someone not yet old enough to legally drink in America. Because the rational parts of our minds still struggle to grapple with the concept of a life being stolen before given the chance to defend its innocence.

Until you watch the body camera footage

Then it’s clear that no value was placed upon that life to begin with; and any semblance of rationality vanishes, revealing a fundamental truth which we have been told through actions and words since first setting foot on American soil. 

We are not wanted.

Our joy. Our passion. Our pain. Our understanding. Our creativity.

Only ever appreciated once they’re being put to use for the sake of a larger system, where people that look like Donovan and myself are rarely ever the victors. (Hint: the system starts with the letter C and ends in apitalism) 

But I digress. 

Let’s focus instead on an element that these police shootings and the accompanying system which enables such activity to thrive consistently overlook: humanity. Or more specifically, the lack thereof. 

In the words of Donovan’s mother, Rebecca Duran, once Donovan was shot on his bed by Columbus Officer Ricky Anderson, “There was no attempt to preserve his life, [immediately] frisking him, handcuffed, flipping him around on the bed.” As a healthcare worker herself, Duran mentions that in the body camera footage, the officers present are yelling at Donovan to “stop resisting” however it’s his own body weight that they’re fighting, as Lewis’s body was already limp by then. 

After such events took place within the home, the officers removed Lewis from the apartment and laid him on the grass outside, where several critical minutes went by without him receiving proper medical care or attention. 

Donovan’s mother and lawyer Rex Elliot plan to file a civil rights violation lawsuit against Anderson and the city of Columbus for the wrongful shooting and maltreatment of the 20-year old expectant father. 

Donovan Lewis was stripped of his humanity in the most extreme way, on the basis that he was potentially dangerous or resistant to the rule of law. But we all know the truth of the matter here. It’s a trope that myriad African Americans have faced when growing up in such a country as the USA. It’s taught to us by our parents and grandparents at kitchen tables and on front porches. It’s our elders’ way of extending our lives past the expiration date of our twenties that the American system often predetermines. 

Simply existing in a Black body is a radical act in America. 

A body that inspires fear, hate, and anger in the hearts and minds of those trusted to uphold a system meant to protect and serve – but it instead neglects and kills. 

As I write these words, I’m almost surprised at how easily I can awaken feelings of frustration, dejection, and betrayal. It seems like I’ve known them so well ever since gaining consciousness and understanding of my identity as an African American in today’s world. 

Although the nuances of a Black American existence may sometimes feel like a game, there is truly no winning.

You see, I don’t live in America – at least, not anymore.

I left about six years ago at the age of 15, when I realized that although the nuances of a Black American existence – like dodging the police when not a single crime has been committed or choosing my words wisely when speaking to someone bigoted in the South – may sometimes feel like a game, there is truly no winning. I saw (and continue to see) that the greater your compassion and intelligence is as a Black man, the larger the target is on our backs to shoot us down in the street, or in our cars, or in our beds… the list goes on and on.

So instead of continuing to lace up every single day to fight over even the most simple and mundane of things, I took a deep breath and chose to leave. To search for a new reality where I– and those that look like Donovan and myself– am valued and actually given humanity as a birthright, and not something bought or gifted through an extraordinary act or career. 

The road since my departure hasn’t been perfect and lined with roses or cotton candy. But I was given something I was searching for since I heard of the first shooting of an unarmed Black man in my lifetime many many years ago… I was given a chance

A chance to learn of this world and myself without the fear of being attacked for loving or learning too much. 

A chance to simply be. 

That’s all we really want. To just be. 

Because in the words of Donovan’s mother as she laid him to rest this Sunday, “He wasn’t armed. He wasn’t dangerous. He wasn’t America’s most wanted. He was just Donovan.”