My statement — long, but worth the read.
First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Michael Brown. No parent should ever have to live in fear that their child could get shot, and no parent should ever have to face such a fear becoming a reality.
I will admit, I am still struggling to find the words that would explain the situation, how I feel about it, and how to move forward. Last night, I felt hopeless and helpless, like we were damned to live in such a world that allows the murder of an unarmed teenager to not even make it to trial. I had similar feelings when brother Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted, and the countless other black men’s lives taken by those sworn to “protect and serve.”
Black Americans in this country have faced incredible hardships over the years. From being stripped of our homeland and thrown into slavery. Beaten and bruised, raped and castrated, humiliated and overworked. Then, after two centuries of this, we were “freed”, but still faced remarkable discrimination in the form of Jim Crow. We weren’t allowed to vote, or get an education, or run for office, or own land/property.
But, through organized action and unimaginable resilience, we were able to overcome these hardships. We fought for the right to vote. We fought for integration. We fought for equality.
Today is no different. We continue to endure racism in its most deadly form — the covert, institutionalized version — that rears its ugly face in the criminal justice system, in education, in access to housing, in access to healthcare, in wage disparities, in public policy and implementation, and in the media – which perpetuates all of it.
A very loud and very clear message continues to be sent. “Black boy, you are of little value to us. Your life does not matter like other lives matter.” This is a message that has the power to internalize itself in the hearts and minds of everyone who hears it. What we are fighting against is a radically unjust system, and a pervasive and dangerous mindset.
We will only see change once we change the system. Period.
I am angry, and sad, and disappointed, but I am fed up. Those who are feeling the same: this is your call to action. Every ounce of negative emotion must be used strategically, and intentionally. We must be calculated and we must be effective. With all the resources we have to communicate with each other, we must work together to dismantle the criminal (un)justice system. We must flood our political system with candidates who represent our interests and we must run ourselves. We have to show up and demand better outcomes at our schools, and we must never feel ashamed to tell our stories.
The only outcome that I can guarantee is that things will get worse if we sit back and allow them. If we let our anger run wild without direction, if we let our disappointment harden us into inaction, if we allow this incident to drift away from our minds over time – I guarantee things will not get better. If we organize, if we use our collective talents, if we direct our negative (and completely justifiable) emotions into positive action, we can make a dent in this world. We can change the system, and we can ensure that it is equitable and representative of ALL people.
Do not listen to those who say, “racism will go away if we stop talking about it.” When, in the history of humanity, has a problem been solved by NOT talking about it or addressing it? On the contrary, we need to talk about it more. We need to get people comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to say what needs to be said.
My friends, be angry, but do not be absent. Be disappointed, but do not be dismayed or discouraged. Progress is slow, but progress is progress. We stand on the shoulders of the tallest giants in history. Let’s work hard so that their memory is not in vain. Let’s keep bending the arc towards justice. There is power in the collective, and there is nothing we can’t overcome when we utilize our talents, exercise resiliency, and work together.
God bless you, God bless Ferguson, and God bless the families who have been directly affected in tragedies like this one.