The days succeeding the tragic police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, have further affirmed or exposed several unfortunate realities present within our society today.
We live in a news media culture often shallow in depth and largely out of touch with reality -- so much so that they fail to grasp it even as it unfolds around them. From suggestions that "water cannons" be turned on peaceful protestors in Ferguson to Captain Ron Johnson being depicted as a gang member due to his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity salutation, these unfortunate flubs have come quickly and with rapidity.
We live in a society that readily offers convenient narratives to justify violence against black people. In the wake of his death, Michael Brown, like so many other black victims, was depicted as a lawless drug addict who posed a clear and present danger to society. In support of this narrative, not only was a video of an alleged convenience store theft of cigars, unrelated to Michael Brown's death, released by the police, but also, an officer took to social media to post a picture of another black man holding a gun in his hand and money in his mouth. He then falsely claimed that person to be Michael Brown.
This further exposed yet another unfortunate reality: to some people, blacks are indistinguishable from each other. Thus, any picture of any black person engaged in any questionable activity will suffice for them to degrade the whole.
We also live in a nation that too readily dismisses the issue of police killing unarmed black citizens, or of any plight uniquely experienced by black people, by pointing out that black people kill each other daily. The issues of police brutality against Blacks and of blacks killing other blacks are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, one issue does not negate the other as both pose a significant threat to the wellbeing of society.
Furthermore, reports of police entering into a church to stymie protest efforts further suggests that very little, whether life or space, is considered sacred anymore.
Yet, despite these unfortunate realities, many positive outcomes have followed in the wake of this senseless tragedy. For the last several days, social media has become a more thoughtful and justice-centered space. Reality show disputes and celebrity gossip has been replaced by posts, images, videos, and trending topics uplifting the importance of this hour. Instead of being a corridor of narcissism, incessantly decorated with selfies, social media has served as a powerful platform to form and to reinforce community and movement.
Another generation appears to have been awakened to the power of their voice lifted in protest, and they are making their voice known. This collective voice has been so powerful that it has gained international attention and support. Thankfully, even some artists and celebrities have begun to recognize the importance of this hour and are using their celebrity to raise awareness.
Emboldened by the Ferguson movement, local movements are sprouting up across the country to push their police force toward needed reforms. Important conversations are being held concerning police wearing cameras and the community having greater review of local forces. Out of such great pain and darkness, a light has begun to appear, and with its appearance comes a great opportunity towards reaching the elusive beloved community. Here are some ways that we can continue to journey forward:
No one who has posted, shared, or tweeted an image of Michael Brown's lifeless body should ever again post, share, or tweet a WorldstarHipHop fight video, or any video depicting or glorifying violence. It is hypocritical to seek justice for victims of violent crimes, even at the hands of the police, and to promote and celebrate violent crimes committed within our neighborhoods and between our neighbors.
No one who cares about the death of Michael Brown, or about the violence enacted against peaceful protestors in Ferguson, can not care about the acts of domestic violence happening between your next door neighbors, or about the child abuse occurring on the next street over, or about the sexual-trafficking happening down the block. Violence is violence, and it is meaningless to oppose violence abroad yet disregard it, in its many forms, at home.
No one who cares about the death of Michael Brown, or the scourge of police brutality, can ever choose not to vote, again. Period. Not only did people die so that you could vote, people die because you do not vote. This is especially true when it comes to selecting your local leadership. If you choose not to vote, you are a co-conspirator in the problem.
In light of this great opportunity birthed out of great tragedy, we must be wary of those on any side advocating for increased arms and promoting violence, or the threat thereof, as a viable solution to our nation's problems. While the sides may appear to stand in opposition to each other, they are in fact unified in a commitment, not to self-preservation, but to mutual annihilation. The wisdom of our forebears guides us in this sacred hour with a clear and certain voice: "The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind... It seeks to annihilate rather than convert." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
I pray that our relevant, sustained, and commendable outrage and peaceful protest over the death of Michael Brown does not end with Michael Brown. May it enlarge itself to include a relevant, sustained, and commendable outrage against all acts of violence and injustice.
And may we not rest until justice "flows like a mighty river, and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24)