It’s terrible isn’t it? Infuriating. Another young life, this time it’s Mike Brown, taken from us, robbed of his future, of his potential, and in an instant gone from his family. While walking to see his grandmother, an unarmed, 18-year-old, Mike Brown was shot and killed by a police officer on August 9th.
The police force in America has always used it’s power to use violence against marginalized groups whether they are people of color or of the LGBT community, there are members of the police force who use brutality as way to exercise their prejudices. It’s terrifying to know that me or somebody I know can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and taken away or harmed without cause or the resources to prove their innocence.
This country has an issue, has an epidemic, of shooting unarmed black males. If all the media examples weren’t enough, studies show that police are simply more likely to shoot Black men.
I am not going to get into all of the details because there are far too many. Residents began to protest with civil unrest when the murder clearly was not being investigated and the police department refused to release the name of the killer, which is very unusual. The police have placed a media blackout in Ferguson. They’re actually forbidding media coverage from major outlets to be present at the scene and are arresting journalists. When a political institution is forbidding the press from exposing what is happening, something has gone terribly wrong. They’ve teargassed a Senator. They have begun to fire rubber bullets at peaceful protestors. The only real place to get news is Twitter. So please follow the hashtags #mediablackout and #ferguson if you are interested.
When I say I am terrified for our country, I am terrified. This could happen to someone you know or love. It’s why I am proud to have writers from Howard University like our former weekend editor Khalea and our current intern Anissa on staff.
A Howard junior, Megan Sims, told Buzzfeed, “I hope people look at the picture and see that the issue is bigger than Mike Brown, bigger than Eric Garner, bigger than so many other young blacks killed by the police. This issue is about the fact that this country is not post-racial, this country is not just, this country is not free.”
There are a few things I want to talk about with regard to the killing of unarmed Blacks in this country.
1. Saying that Black people who are dressed like “thugs” look suspicious so it’s their fault for courting trouble is like saying girls who wear short skirts are asking to be sexually assaulted. You do not get to decided who someone is and what their intentions are by how they dress.
2. When the media treats rapists with more respect, when the media treats the murderers of Black youth with more respect, when we consider the innocence of those who harmed before those who have been hurt, there is a problem in this culture.
3. Saying that “violence only begets more violence” is playing fast and loose with the term “riot.” Members of the Ferguson were organized in a peaceful protest. They were using their constitutional right to assemble, organize, protest and express themselves. Even if, members of that community chose to behave in a nihilistic manner that does not demean or negate or trivialize the murder itself or the act of protest itself. If members of the community want to exploit tensions to loot that should not and does not takeaway from the convictions and facts of this murder.
4. Saying that “violence only begets more violence” trivializes violence as a political tool. Yes, it is a political tool (I recommend reading Hannah Arendt’s book On Violence), it is the worst kind, it should most certainly be avoided or a last resort but when police officers are releasing tear gas, unleashing dogs, aiming weapons, have snipers, shoot rubber bullets at you for no reason, violence maybe the only way you save your life, save your community or protect yourself from the clear erosion of your rights. When there is violence, do not dismiss it, ask, “What are those people fighting for and who are they fighting against?”
This is not an isolated incident. In the wake of our history with racial politics. In the wake of Trayvon Martin. In the wake of so many others, this is not an isolated incident. Violence would not be used if we had not become so exhausted of being lambs to the slaughterhouse of power and prejudice.
5. Using arguments like “but he was a bad kid” or “but he was a college student” to defend or condemn the lost life of a Black male is missing the point. It doesn’t matter if this kid was a petty thief or had a 4.0 GPA, you don’t needlessly kill someone. Even when you are arrested and charged with a crime you have due process. You are protected by the law. Your life does not suddenly become meaningless because you weren’t an upstanding citizen or because you have a “dark” past.
6. With this I leave you with the “IfTheyGunnedMeDown” hashtag. This is where young Black people show a photo of them looking like a “thug” and looking “proper” next to one another to show how the media selectively uses images of Black people to manipulate the public image of them.