My first reaction to the ruling in Ferguson was probably not as vehement or certain as most. I can't say I was surprised. I know a life was lost -- a young man who did not deserve to die. I understand that the false arrests, beatings and killings of young black men at the hands of police officers in this country are horrendous offenses. But it's one that's been made a norm. I felt weak at the idea -- that because this is the norm, I couldn't muster the same strong response as my peers.
But as I've perused the Internet looking for answers, from social media to news sources and everything in-between, I felt we've lost more than countless lives at the hands of these terrible crimes. Individually, I've lost the ability to be surprised.
I don't want to condemn people for putting their outrage on the Internet; it's something remarkable to see hundreds of people on my Facebook and Twitter express this. It's remarkable to see individuals expressing their disagreement, too. Even if you choose to deny Michael Brown's case as a murder, you cannot reasonably deny the inequality we witness on a daily basis.
We need outcry greater than an update. If we can't have these discussions, or respond with action, we can't reasonably protest with any clarity. We may condemn rioting, but think about what's at stake. Hold back when you call the rioters "animals" or "savages", as I've seen many times. Withdraw from the norm, and realize people have become irate as a reaction to a violent, uncertain world that does not do right by them, no matter how resilient they are. Honesty and justice does not exist in our world at large, much less on the street between a police officer and a young black man.
Again, I don't condemn outcries on the Internet. But it can have an adverse effect, despite the best intentions. It may further dilute the very real nature of this issue for many people who do not face it. It allows us to "experience" uproar without ever speaking with someone who has faced prejudice or injustice. It doesn't change systematic oppression, much less open up conversations. If anything, I have seen the Internet as a forum to reinforce already held beliefs, behind the mask of a computer screen. It's terrible what's happening, but if I can't admit how distant I feel from this as a white American without reconstructing my own narrative, I'd be lying.
I have started to come to terms with this inequality not only as a system, but as lives lost. A life is lost not only if a heartbeat ceases. A life is lost when the hope for stability, for success, for freedom is negated. This is my understanding, a way I can avoid feeling numb by the expected. I know now the absence of freedom is not imprisonment. The absence of freedom is death.