On Dec. 13th, I joined tens of thousands to march on Washington. We marched to protest the killing of Michael Brown, killed with outstretched arms while pleading, "Don't shoot." We marched to protest the death of Eric Garner, choked to death for selling untaxed cigarettes. We marched to protest the death of Tamir Rice, shot for carrying a toy gun.
But these clanging tragedies -- so acute in their hurt and visceral in their horror -- punctuate a longer, subtler, more doleful melody of ignorance, fear and inequality. All young black people experience discrimination regardless of where they live, what they earn or who they are.
Such prejudice swells the refrain of suspicion, sidelong glances and harried whispers that follow black people in our society through convenience stores, city streets and neighborhoods and by its sheer momentum so often, too often, culminates in excessive, deadly and purportedly justified force.
In a tragic reprisal to these killings, Ismaaiyl Brinsley murdered Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Dec. 20th. Officers Ramos and Liu received no trial. They did not hear the charges against them and were never allowed to speak in their defense. They were summarily executed without due process of law on the sole basis of their appearance. Through this cowardly and deplorable act, Brinsley embodied the very injustice he so vehemently and violently condemned.
But injustice can only breed injustice. Judge Damon Keith once wrote, "democracies die behind closed doors" when he opposed an attempt by President George W. Bush to exclude the public from deportation hearings in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Violence is its own barrier. Violence closes minds to the opinions of others, violence darkens the public discourse with the pall of fear and violence silences voices tragically and permanently.
The solution to injustice is not to silence voices but to raise them. Whether it is by sharing an experience of racial profiling through social media, contacting your government representatives to express feedback about law enforcement methods or even communicating concerns to your local police precinct. Raising our voices as citizens is the only way to dispel the melody of prejudice and the refrain of mistrust and suspicion on both sides of the blue line. Through this dialogue we will recall the sacred truth: as Americans that which divides us will always pale against that which binds us, as a people and as a nation.
1 Liptak, Adam. "A Court Backs Open Hearings On Deportation." The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2002. Web. 26 Dec. 2014.