It took me several days before I decided to speak on the verdict in Ferguson.
Personally, I purposely choose to step away from publicly writing about such similar issues because I always felt that it was expected for me to do so. Being a young black man in journalism automatically makes me the first person my peers assume will be ready to contribute to these discussions - and honestly, I have just been fed up.
Black America, and all our allies - we are now beginning to sound like a broken record.
An injustice is committed. We protest and declare the world to be wicked. Our white friends say they can't believe that racism still is this evident in America, and they give us our condolences. The media blast images of black faces speaking out. BET tries to get dignified and give us notable televised specials. And for that small moment, black people are relevant for ratings, for headlines, and we even feel more inclined to consider uniting as a people.
And then people realize they have to go back to work, media executives are ready to flip the switch, and we all snap back into our own realities and once again wait for another injustice to occur to rally us up again.
The predictable return to form is as disappointing as it is annoying. Activists such as myself, who are forever observing and organizing for social issues, scratch our heads in frustration. However, I have come to the realization that justice for Ferguson is just another cause that America has made an event rather than a real reflection on race and humanity in society.
To encapsulate inequality and race issues all in one major national headline story makes these problems seem as though they are on a case by case basis. Even worse, we tend to only talk about them when they are relevant to everyone rather than within our own circles.
Black people use these instances as a way to show their white peers a very visible example of injustice in society when they really don't have to. More of what happens in our everyday lives and work environments don't rely on the next big news story to validate that - it's really very apparent if you call it out.
I didn't need the Ferguson verdict to tell me that racial inequality in America was alive and well. And we as a society should be ashamed of ourselves to rely on the same slogans and references every time something like this happens.
As a nation, we have not recently done anything empirical to show such radical change in race relations. People of color across the board are still underrepresented in the workforce and our colleges, and yet over-represented in our prisons and lower-income housing. With these gross circumstances, we will never cure institutional racism in our country before addressing this matter aggressively.
That being said, as long as we have a society where people of color are living and being treated as inferior institutionally - then you shouldn't expect equal protection under the law, frankly.
We choose to temporarily protest and demonstrate for the symptoms of this injustice, rather than the disease itself. When black lives have fallen fatal to a law enforcement system that has been trained to see them as a threat - are we really channeling our anger at the right target?
When I heard the verdict, I wasn't just disappointed that Darren Wilson was not indicted - but at the fact that even if he was, the larger problem would still not be fixed.
Learning from this, I felt that we all should re-frame how we are going about this. The vanity fair on our Facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages are compelling...but really isn't going to change anything. I'm done with just spreading awareness on deaf ears and stubborn minds. I am tired of explaining to white people why black lives matter when they should really already be humane enough to understand why all our lives do. Altogether, we need to end the continual visual talk with no visceral walk.
In my opinion, if we really don't want to the memories of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and many other countless unarmed black lives to be in vain, we need to shift our focus more on fixing the system that oppressed them rather than their killers who slipped through the cracks.
So here are five things I am going to start doing rather than just social media posting in the moment, and protesting for relevance:
1. Start holding my local elective officials more accountable on how they address law enforcement in my community.
2. Focus on pushing for policy that enables equal rights not just nationally, but regionally.
3. Thoughtfully confronting and calling out discrimination and racism within my own social circles and workplace on a regular basis.
4. Not waiting to be involved in civic activities and protests only in times of tragedies and moments of injustices, but regularly.
5. Keeping friends, peers, and co-workers informed of issues that impact my community and encouraging them to get involved.
Overall, I think what I have learned from Ferguson is that we can no longer fight for rights and causes in times of emergency, but until we actually see results.
Translation: Until blacks in America are seeing immediate changes and justice in our current access and equity - then our work to ensure that will never be over. Let's not reduce our causes to verdicts and small victories of justice, but an actual overhaul of how we collectively function and sustain in America.
That's how we really make black lives matter - socially and institutionally.