What is the value of a black man’s life in America?
That’s the question being asked all over social media after a grand jury in Ferguson, MO. decided not to charge the police officer that killed an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown months ago.
Some two weeks later, a Staten Island jury decides not to indict a police officer that choked Eric Garner to death on camera. Thank God for camera phones – the entire episode played out publicly, so there is no doubt what happened. Garner was unarmed and clearly telling police that he could not breathe as an officer continued to choke him.
So for those who don’t understand, this article probably will not help you get there, but in the views of Black America – enough is enough. Actually, this issue has captured attention and compassion from people of all races.
Clearly, in the Michael Brown case there was conflictingeyewitness accounts in the, but the fact that the grand jury couldn’t even come up with a misdemeanor charge is disturbing.
In a somewhat serious moment, comedian Chris Rock wrote on his Twitter page, “Doesn’t take 100 days to decide if murder is a crime, it takes 100 days to figure out how to tell the it isn’t.”
Enough is enough – and black people are tired of listening to armed assailants like George Zimmerman and the Ferguson police officer who say that they feared for their lives so they were justified in killing our youth.
Enough is enough – and blacks are tired of being told that,”this has nothing to do with race.” Well, we are not ignorant. Race has been and will continue to be an issue in America because we refuse to have honest dialogue about our differences.
All unnecessary death is bad, but perhaps the Eric Garner murder may be an even harder pill to swallow. The fact that it played out on camera for the world to see has sparked civil unrest around the country. From big cities like New York and Chicago to small towns and college campuses.
Protesters are not only marching, but also shutting down major highways all around the country. In Miami they shut down parts of Interstate 95 and a few days later a similar incident happened in Jacksonville.
Here is one that may surprise you. Over 1,000 protesters marched for hours in Berkeley, CA, shutting down Interstate 80 and stopping a train in the third night of demonstrations.
As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It seems almost impossible to believe that we are having the same conversations in 2014 that we were having in 50 years ago at the height of the Civil Rights movement.
I hate that I have to constantly remind my teenage son to be careful when interacting with police and even older white men in general. Of course, we should all teach our children to be respectful of authority and their elders, but that can only go so far when you are minding your own business and someone starts harassing you like Jordan Davis or Trayvon Martin.
And in this great country of ours, equality and bigotry are still issues. I often think of a quote from Langston Hughes who said, “I swear to the Lord I still can’t see Why Democracy means Everybody but me.”
So in many ways, Ferguson and New York are build ups of local and national racial tensions.
There are people – elected and non-elected – that simply do not care about justice and equality. There are people who feel that it was unfortunate that Trayvon was killed, but Zimmerman had a right to defend himself. These are people who are out of touch with reality and out of touch with the black experience in America.
Hope is a powerful thing. As Cornell West once said, “I am a prisoner of hope.” And my hope is that we as a nation will continue to evolve and eventually move past the racial issues that we constantly deal with.
“It is a burden of black people that we have to do more than talk,” said Barbara Jordan.
So why riot? Over the past several years African Americans have dealt with the popular murders of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and now Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but there are so many more unarmed black men that have died the same way.
Dr. Martin Luther King said, “A riot is the voice of the unheard.” And while I don’t agree with rioting and destroying public and private property – I understand the frustration, outrage and disappointment that causes rioting.
There are names like Dante Parker, John Crawford, and Ezell Ford who have all faced similar deaths. So what is the value of a black life in America these days?
Brown and Garner are more examples of black men who will never get to tell their side of the story. Again, thank God for camera phones because at least America saw Garner’s murder first hand. But the outcome is the same – no prosecution for the murderer.
Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once said, “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”
Signing off from Valor Academy in Jacksonville,
What is the value of a black man’s life in America?