Partial Source: Chicago Monitor, Herald Net, Kuow,
March 3rd, 2017
In late November, young Ben Keita went missing from his home in Lake Stevens, Washington, a small town an hour north of Seattle. “This kid vanished,” a detective told the local newspaper at the time. He was eighteen years old, he had left behind his car, his wallet and cell phone.
He stopped going to school a few weeks before his disappearance.
For more than a month, search and rescue crews combed through the forests near Keita’s home, and the local police department scoured surveillance footage of the city.
Ben Keita was black. He was Muslim. And in January 2017, his body was found hanging from a tree, suspended eight feet– claim- from the ground.
“He was planning to graduate this year from Lake Stevens High School,” Keita’s father Ibrahim told KUOW. “He was dreaming of becoming a medical doctor and work as a medical examiner. Now those dreams are over.”
Ben Keita’s body was found in the woods near the neighborhood.
Keita’s death was initially ruled a suicide by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. Keita’s family maintains that Ben had no history of mental health issues, depression, or anxiety. A few weeks after its initial report, the Medical Examiner’s Office changed the classification of Keita’s death to “undetermined.” Mind you, he was being hung with a rope eight feet- claim- from the ground, and despite the United States’ legacy of lynching of Black people from trees by the same white supremacist groups that are feeling emboldened today.
In a Trump world, one in which countless mosques have been burned down, Jewish cemeteries vandalized, and immigrants carry fear in their hearts every day, it takes little imagination to connect the dots and imagine what could possibly cause the death of a young Black, Muslim teen.
Keita’s parents participated in a press conference Tuesday.
Lab reports are being awaited.
“To be clear we don’t know what happened but we want a comprehensive investigation into his death,” Arsalan Bukhari, the executive director of CAIR-Washington, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday. “This is the death of an African-American Muslim male teenager, and historically, we have had deaths in this manner to minorities that were not self inflicted — it had been inflicted by others.”
In the era between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, thousands of African-American men and women were lynched by white mobs solely because of the color of their skin. “Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials,” according to a report from the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery-based racial justice organization. Tellingly, for example, the Senate never passed any version of the 200 anti-lynching bills introduced at the height of the racial nadir.
“These lynchings were terrorism,” the report states. Along with Jim Crow laws, they were a tool of reinforcing white supremacy in a time of supposed racial progress marked by the passage of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the Constitution.
Keita’s parents, with support from CAIR-Washington, have asked the FBI to further investigate the circumstances of their son’s death, and asks the public to come forth with any information they might have.
We do not know why Ben Keita went missing more than three months ago, and we don’t know why this happened.
We do know that the circumstances of Keita’s death invoke the memory of a long history of racial violence — a history that we might be able to forget most days, but one that resurfaces in the face of our collective amnesia.
In recent weeks, we’ve already seen our president engage in what could be selective grievance. President Trump and his administration are quick to mourn the victims of brown Muslims — hours after the news broke of an attack in front of the Louvre in Paris, the president tweeted about a “radical Islamic terrorist,” urging the United States to “get smart” on its immigration policy, in loud, capital letters.
Yet Trump’s reaction to the murders of six Muslims in a Canadian mosque at the hands of a white supremacist speaks to us through the smoke screen. The shooter is reported to have been a fan of the president and his far-right policies.
Where were Trump’s trademark, caps-lock heavy tweets condemning this violence? Nowhere to be found.
And his silence on the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian man killed at the hands of a white supremacist– “Get out my country,” the shooter in a Kansas bar yelled at Kuchibhotla and his friend– men he mistook for being Iranian.
The violence has to stop.
Rest in Power, Ben Keita.