23 Ways: 23 Actions Punishable By Death if You're Black in America

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Alton Sterling was killed Tuesday by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police. The altercation that led to his death was caught on bystander video and is sending shockwaves across social media. Not only because the incident ended in his death, but because it's become achingly familiar. The action that apparently started the whole thing? Sterling's decision to sell CDs.

Sterling joins a long list of black people in America whose seemingly mundane actions have led, inevitably, to their deaths at the hands of police, vigilantes empowered by police, or white supremacists tacitly enabled by the criminal justice system. 

Man signs a memorial to Alton Sterling.
Source: 
Michael Kunzelman/AP

Here is an incomplete list of actions that could get you killed if you're black in America:

1. Selling CDs outside of a supermarket. 

2. Selling cigarettes outside of a corner store.

3. Walking home with a friend.

4. Missing a front license plate.

5. Wearing a hoodie.

6. Riding a commuter train.

7. Holding a fake gun in a park in Ohio.

8. Holding a fake gun in a Walmart in Ohio.

9. Holding a fake gun in Virginia.

10. Holding a fake gun in Washington, D.C. 

11. Calling for help after a car accident.

12. Driving with a broken brake light. 

13. Attending a Bible study class

14. Failing to signal a lane change

15. Walking away from police.

16. Walking toward police

17. Running to the bathroom in your apartment

18. Walking up the stairwell of your apartment building

19. Sitting in your car before your bachelor party.

20. Holding your wallet

21. Making eye contact. 

22. Attending a birthday party.

23. Laughing


Read more: 
Former NYPD Officer Peter Liang Won't Spend a Day in Prison for Akai Gurley's Death
7 Things Worth More Than a Black Person's Life in America 
Jamar Clark's Death Still Pains Minneapolis, So Naturally Someone Wrote a Racist Op-Ed

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Jamilah King

Jamilah King is a senior staff writer at Mic. She was previously an editor at Colorlines.

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