An ode to those lives lost

I wasn’t sure I was gonna write about Ferguson.  Even as I am typing, I feel like I still won’t.

I have seen the posts on social media, watched some of the news coverage, spoken to family, friends, and police officers. One thing that is common throughout is a sense of hurt, and maybe even a sense of loss. Though many thought the election of a Black President said much about us become a post racial society, the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, and John Crawford III tell a different story.

I hurt as a Black Woman. It brings tears to my eyes to think about how these men could have been my father, brother, lover, cousin, uncle, or friend. More than that, I hurt as a human. It pains me to know how one life can have value over another, that people can try to justify a man’s death by the supposed content of his character or his life choices to that point. It pains me to know that some people can allows themselves to feel better about a young life gone too soon because he “might” have engaged in criminal activities. It pains me to know that people can gloss over the death of man by the hands of those who are sworn to “serve and protect” by diverting to discussions about Black on Black violence. It stings to know that social media and mainstream media are angling to make this a Black issue.

It isn’t.  It’s a human rights issue.

There is anger everywhere we turn. Some people are angry at the President for not doing more. Some people are angry at the celebrities who are going down to show face in solidarity. Some people are angry at the ones who aren’t. Some people are angry there isn’t a clear leader in this movement and belittle the efforts of the people who have come from all corners to show their support. Some people are angry at the twitter activism. Some people are angry as hell at the police not being policed, at the police for seeming serving and protecting at their whims and making justifications when they don’t. Some people are angry that their idyllic and bucolic world views have come crashing down. Some people are angry that people are attempting to make justifications that these men had to lose their lives for the greater good. Some people are angry that no one is trying to make any sense of these deaths at all.

All of that anger has a place and a purpose, because it allows us to check in with ourselves. When a death is senseless and sudden, no action or reaction seems quite good enough. None of this anger and no one’s actions are going to replace the life lost. I do take pause with people saying that it offers no consolation to a grieving mother to be told that her son died for a cause. If not for a cause, then what? It can be really easy to shake one’s head at what you term senseless acts of violence and lose the person-hood of the life lost. What I do know is that we are poised to effect amazing change in the policing and even the political system. For all the people pointing at the life of Oscar Grant as an example of how the system fails us -which is not an opinion I share- how many of us are looking at the life of Benji Wilson, whose death was a precursor to legislation that stipulated that a trauma victim be taken to the nearest hospital with a trauma surgeon, despite location. What about Mike Brown’s death, a death that has prompted the Hawthorne, California mayor to mandate that all officers wear cameras? What about the deaths’ of all the civil rights leaders who helped us usher in an era where people could believe that we live in a post racial society.

We forget that anger turns into action. Despite the critiques we might have for the activism of this time, it seems we forget that our social media presence is a valid presence. It is a place where those of us who don’t have the inclination or the means to stand in the trenches can voice our opinions and have our voices heard. Do we forget how often breaking news is covered on twitter before we see it on any other mainstream source? We have an option that was not available to our forefathers, so I am glad to see we utilize every means available to have our messages heard. This availability means we hear consenting, dissenting and all other voices, but it also offers us another opportunity to dialogue if we are willing to use it.

I have had the opportunity to dialogue with an aspiring member of a police department. Even though his reactions initially made me very angry, they also made me very sad. His first response was “well, I can’t believe that he didn’t do anything to make them escalate” though he also said that training for police men covers escalation and de-escalation of force. He also made clear that “I am trying to make sure I make it home at night, so if it comes down to it, I will do what I have to do”. This same gentleman also admitted that he had been a victim of profiling more than once, but also reported being more aggressive with Black Men.  He also suggested we teach our sons and daughters what passive and active resistance.

I hurt for him and others like him who take the oath to protect and serve and learn that this service may not be equal to all man kind, though it should be. I hurt for people who believe so hard in that motto that they can’t believe that people who swear that oath can betray it. I hurt for people who forget that police officers are people first, people with conscious and unconscious biases that they play out in in their personal and professional lives.

 

Situations like theses remind us of the opportunities we have to change. If one person changes their mind about the importance of basic human rights for all despite color or creed, then change has come.

 

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