For the past couple of days, I have joined a large part of the country in their outcry for justice regarding the most recent death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I also join them in asking for answers when it comes to the passing of John Crawford III of Beavercreek, Ohio, a young man who was shot dead after holding a toy gun in a Wal-Mart; and the passing of Eric Garner of New York City, New York after being confronted by NYPD. All three men lost their lives to Police Officers.
I cannot help but think about Poet Javon Johnson's piece "Cuz He's Black", as I watched the media market these stories as another "fatal incident" during another day on the job for these law enforcers. I could not help but to think about the messages that I hear my male friends telling their sons as to how they can survive in this society; do not appear to be a threat or confrontational. How POC are to ensure that they act a certain way, say things without infliction in their voice, and dress to assimilate just so that someone else does not feel threatened by their confidence and assertiveness; characteristics that are instilled in us as children so that we can combat bullies on the playground. I think about my role, as an educator, who once worked in a predominately black community, found myself talking with my students their first few weeks on campus, "You! You are someone who is destined to be GREAT! Never allow anyone or anything to tell you differently. You are a descendant of Kings and Queens whose spirits have followed you to this day in images of great leaders like Dr. King, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and Assata Shakur. Your destiny is defined by your walk. Walk tall. Be strong. Be proud"! These words make me cringe because they have been interpreted as being aggressive by the majority population. Which in turn causes them to appear to be a threat and the majority's response is to remove them from society, for they are not good for the good of the order.
The U.S. is an interesting beast. In 2013 we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. In 2014 we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. From the looks of our current state, you would not know this. For many of us, it feels as though we are reliving history. It seems unreal to imagine that 50 years later, we are still rioting, protesting, and demanding answers and equal treatment of marginalized groups, specifically the Black community for this piece. It is painful to think that there are individuals in our society who are smiling at our pain. It is painful to think that the potential of achieving the "American Dream" is so far fetched that many of our youth do not conceptualize the messages that are being told to them. It is even more painful to think that the value of a Black man has not changed since Slavery.
As I sit and write this, I cannot help but to think about what this means for the men and women in blue. I will never go as far to say that all law enforcers are careless and loose cannons, because they are not. And I will not discount some of those who are feeling the same pain for our country and society as these families who mourn the lose of their children. I will even go as far as to say that there are probably some law enforcers who sides with the families of the victims. However, we are a culture of told stories. The stories that are being told to us is that these men lost their lives to police officers who failed to think before they acted. Adrenaline and ego can be a dangerous combination.
As the families of these men fight our justice system to make sense of all of this nonsense, I want to lend my hand in solidarity that this will send a message that things have to change. We can longer devalue our citizens, regardless of their skin color, socio-economic status, gender, sexual identity, religion, and etc. Men and women before us did not march, protest, speak out, or die for us to revert back to the same experiences. We must take a stand and demand that our government, the people we appointed, are held accountable for making things right for the world, not their pockets. It is time to take a stand for the sake of our own lives. This is not the stand that George Zimmerman, Theodore Wafer, Officer Randal Kerrick, or Officer Johannes Mehserle chose. This is a stand that states that "shooting first, asking questions later" does not translate to "serve and protect." This is a stand that sends the message that our youth are valuable and deserve a chance. This is a stand that our struggle is bound to one another.
So I ask you, are you willing to STAND?