What the hell is happening in America? Are some people so threatened by the election of Barack Obama that it's open season on minorities? How did we come to this unequal and disturbing place where a white 18-year-old can carry a gun into a grocery store legally, yet an unarmed black teen is killed for being tall? Or wearing a hoodie? Or playing with a toy gun?
Many things have been said about Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and so many others. They were using marijuana. They were selling illegal cigarettes. They were menacing. They robbed someone. And, the catch-all phrase "they are thugs." Let's say 100 percent of those things are true and accurate. None of those are capital offenses and we don't empower our citizenry or our police to enforce summary executions in some real life version of the Sylvester Stallone stinker Judge Dredd.
At the heart of the unending worldwide protests around the recent grand jury decisions is the dark reality that our justice system is fundamentally broken. Neither our justice system nor our society is color-blind or equality-minded. Grand juries are made up of citizens, as are juries. That justice wasn't served in New York, Ferguson or Florida is not at all surprising when you consider that 77 percent of whites in America thought Darren Wilson should not be indicted, while 54 percent of non-whites thought he should.
Of course most whites are not racist, just like most blacks are not criminals. But that isn't what the right-wing media would have you believe. They have hijacked the conversation and made it about crime... and how black-on-black or black-on-white crime isn't reported or sensationalized. This issue has nothing to do with crime, and everything to do with injustice. It is the lack of indictments that made Michael Brown and Eric Garner international news. Black people are arrested every day. As are Hispanics, Asians, whites and everyone else. Had Michael Brown or Eric Garner been arrested for their alleged crimes, and then given a fair trial, there would be no story.
Instead, four black men are dead. Three of them quite young; three killed at the hands of the police. All unarmed and two accused of petty crimes at best. No arrest, no due process, no fair trial, just four dead. And yet the right insists that its the "race-hustlers" who are exploiting the situation. That cops and law enforcement are heroes, struggling against widespread black "thuggery" in towns like Ferguson. This is the same media who canonized the protesters pointing loaded weapons at federal law enforcement when the "victim" Cliven Bundy was white. Of note, neither Cliven Bundy nor any of the armed protesters were killed or arrested. What is it that this media want us to believe exactly? That an armed white man is a patriot while an unarmed black man is a criminal who must be put down?
Such flawed, racists beliefs have a long history in our society. Dr. Martin Luther King himself once said "moderate whites prefer order over justice." In short, a few indiscriminate casualties are an acceptable price to pay for order and safety. Only, it appears, when those casualties are black. How else can you explain that Jared Lee Loughner, Timothy McVeigh and James Eagen Holmes, who collectively killed or injured 949 Americans in orchestrated attacks of domestic terrorism, were all apprehended alive? After all, if order requires profiles and stereotypes, and black youth are prone to being thugs (as some would have you believe), then isn't it also reasonable to say that young white men simply should not be allowed guns? They must be shot on site because it is young white men who commit many of the mass shootings in America.
While an increasingly polarized America has some marching and others defending, while most -- including the powers that be -- are deafeningly silent. We should all protest -- peacefully, of course. And so should our leaders. In this space, I have been a staunch defender of President Obama, yet his words and actions on these racial injustices fall far short of acceptable. He said racism is "deeply rooted" in our society. In a country whose first century was built on slavery and where racist segregation ended less than 50 years ago, only the tragically uninformed, willfully ignorant or overtly racist could say anything else. He also requested funding for less than 7 percent of police officers to wear body cameras. But, it isn't nearly enough.
Last I checked, neither Ferguson nor Staten Island are sovereign nations. Where is the special prosecutor? Where is the federal investigation? How is it possible that the prosecutor in the Darren Wilson case had a policeman father who was killed by a black man? How is it that the National Bar Association has condemned the grand jury decision there, and scores of legal experts have called it incomprehensible? How is it that a video of a man gasping for his last breath isn't enough to charge a crime? Where is the action? Where are the politicians, on both sides of the aisle, demanding justice? Are the only voters that matter racist whites?
Which is to say nothing of the celebrity crowd? Other than a few brave members of the St. Louis Rams, how come there isn't a greater uproar -- amongst athletes of all colors? When Donald Sterling went on his racist rant, many NBA players threatened to sit out this season if the team wasn't sold. LeBron wearing an "I can't breathe" T-shirt just isn't enough. Why aren't entire sports teams walking out? Why aren't entertainers refusing to show up, en masse? I am neither black nor white, yet I am outraged. How come everyone else isn't?
Nothing will bring back the four lives that were tragically and unjustly cut short. But it's what we do now that will define our legacy as a nation. Will the protests eventually fade into a cold winter's night, or will these injustices be an awakening that our plight for equal justice has a long way to go in America? Proud Americans, especially on the right, talk about American Exceptionalism... that America is an idea that stands for something pure and decent and good in this world. If that is true, then now is our moment to shine, while the world watches on.