On December 17th, 2015, Zaevion Dobson was sitting on a friend’s porch in Knoxville, Tennessee, when three gunmen drove by and opened fire. Despite the near certainty of injury or even death, despite being a boy, despite being completely undeserving of the violence perpetrated against him, Dobson dove on top of the three young girls sitting beside him and bore the full force of the bullets flying toward them. That night, he gave his life in order to protect his friends, and because of this supreme act of heroism they remain alive today.
Throughout human history, the most courageous and revered individuals have been those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of others. In the United States, soldiers are awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest honor, for doing precisely this. Zaevion was not a soldier. He received no medal. He was fifteen years old.
The story of Zaevion Dobson, while incredibly uplifting, is also profoundly tragic. This American plague of senseless gun violence in our cities and communities is a travesty, especially when the lives it claims are so young and promising. Zaevion did well in school, stayed out of trouble, and was a star football player. Unfortunately, none of that mattered. Zaevion was born a black boy in an impoverished, violent neighborhood, and like so many other individuals in this country he paid for that with his life. We should not have to read stories like Zaevion’s. During this, the first Black History Month of a very controversial Trump presidency, we must remember Zaevion Dobson, and we must fight to end the harsh inequalities and injustices faced by the black community that lead to these horrific tragedies.
(Overhead photo: Associated Press)