Please Know, World, Black Lives Do Matter

In the last week, this blogger has often been reduced to stunned silence and anguished utterances as she looked on with the entire world at the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri. To say that the images, information and lack thereof, coming out of this town have been enough to make one feel heartsick, rage-filled, and utterly helpless is an understatement.

After all, how is one supposed to feel when witnessing a full-on assault against an entire race’s intellect, liberty, humanity, and all that makes one whole? There are no words to describe it. It is one thing to carry with you the knowledge that there are those in this country who believe you are lesser than, and another entirely to see it play out nightly on the streets of America, Home of the Free. It is gut-wrenching to witness along with this palpable feeling of sorrow that is inescapable.

We all know how we ended up here (AGAIN! AGAIN!, AGAIN!); a young black man walking down a street in the early hours of a warm summer day who was then gunned down, seemingly for the infraction of “walking while black.” He, Michael Brown, was then left for four hours in the sun as not a paramedic was called, nor a person to administer CPR was allowed. He died in front of a community of onlookers, none who could come to his aid. And those who could, those who are sworn to “serve and protect” stood on the sidelines, not reporting the incident, nor calling for help or an ambulance, but by all accounts waiting for a police SUV to come and take the relative “carrion” away under a shroud of secrecy. The events that followed have been shameful, inciteful, and appalling.

The police officer who did the killing was placed on administrative leave and in the wee hours of the night, left the area of Ferguson without the community knowing his name, while they continued to pay his salary. Only after pleas from the community and several nights of unrest, was information released by Chief Thomas Jackson, but with this added on like a visceral punch to the gut — Michael Brown, the young man whose black body seemed to be of little concern to the Ferguson Police Department while dead, was shown alive during their presser in surveillance footage allegedly shoplifting $5 dollar cigars, which went on to be looped on end by news outlets under the auspices that he was now a “thug,” a “menace” and an “Incredible Hulk” capable of amazing feats — instead of a young man who did not deserve to die. And at that same presser, there was no autopsy report released. No ballistics report. No information about the state of the investigation into Michael Brown’s death. But the recorded image of a young man minutes before he would be shot six times and left for dead like some discarded animal; or more to the point, a black body that didn’t matter. Note this was the same recorded image the Department of Justice advised the Ferguson Police Department not to release as it would inflame tensions in the already knotted community of Ferguson — this is what the police believed to be the most important event of that day. Not the bullet wounds to the arm, chest, eye, and head of Michael Brown.

And inflame it did. As did the coming announcement by Missouri governor, Jay Nixon — after two nights of unrest that saw a militarized police force, dressed to the nines in combat gear complete with camouflage fatigues and supplied tactically with weapons of war, including tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, and other projectiles — that Ferguson, MO would be under a curfew from midnight until five AM indefinitely. This simply stunning announcement was laid out in a press conference that can only be described as a catastrophe, a complete embarrassment to elected officials everywhere in the nation, and as out-of-touch with the emotions on the ground as any strategy capable. Why not institute wardens to keep citizens in their homes if you sought to infringe on their rights? After all, it’s such a small step to go to full police state when you’re talking about curfews and limiting the movement of those in the community. All the while, Michael Brown’s killer roams in places unknown, free to move about as he sees fit without restriction or limits on his freedom.

Again, the thinking with regard to the citizens of Ferguson by the police force and governing bodies in the state aligned themselves with the notion that these “people” don’t matter, that they shouldn’t have a reasonable expectation that the police department be transparent and open about a matter that has quickly become part of a national conversation, that these “people” shouldn’t be angry that one of their own was gunned down without explanation, that these “people” shouldn’t want to demonstrate and showcase their fear, anger, and concern amid pleas that justice be served. No, no, instead the people of Ferguson are something to be “dealt” with, a nuisance that should be “managed,” “quieted,” and “handled.” The way the messy, excessive shooting death of Michael Brown needed to be quietly “managed” and “handled” in the four hours it took to remove his bullet-riddled body from the middle of the street as his family cried and screamed behind police tape.

In the aftermath, the citizens of Ferguson have been tear-gassed, pelted with rubber bullets, ignored, lied to, shouted down, demonized, restrained, seized upon, and very simply… openly shamed and left vulnerable to attack, after attack whether intellectually, bodily, or spiritually, both in media, by racist groups, and on the frontlines in their community, in their homes, and in every space where they are supposed to feel safe and protected in this great land of ours.

To that undeniable end, Ferguson, Missouri is a powder keg.

Rightfully so, since it is also the latest town that has had to come face-to-face with the long standing question of, “What is the value of black life?” The list is growing; Emmett, Oscar, Trayvon, Eric, Michael, through decades and generations, the list is growing. In the case of Trayvon and Michael the similarities are startling; both were at the end of their teens, just burgeoning on adulthood, just on the precipice of figuring out who they were, and what they were going to be. Neither of their stories had been written. Neither had the opportunity to try and fail or flourish and succeed. To become fathers who would see their own sons enter a new age of discourse on race. To be given the chance to prove those languishing racists wrong was not afforded to them. The chance to stand up and say to their detractors, their naysayers, that yes, they do matter, was cut irrevocably short.

“When Will Being Young, Black and Male Cease to be a Crime?” would not be answered in their case. And their killers, both in their late twenties, both adults, both in positions where the authority to make decisions about taking a life should have been lended through training and heeded with restraint, seemingly saw what many see when observing a young black male; a threat, a problem, an entity so foreign from themselves as to render them inhuman, insomuch as cannon fodder without a second thought or the benefit of the doubt provided.

The most frustrating and heartbreaking thing to witness, though, is what can only be described at this point as the continued drowning of the community of Ferguson. Witnessing the turmoil on the ground evokes the most basic question for the state of Missouri. How can you let this happen? What are you protecting to the point that you are willing to let Ferguson burn while the world watches in horror? The community needs help and is looking to some one or thing for salvation from the hurt and pain and a way out of this cyclical quagmire that’s stuck in an unending loop of contentious days and violent nights.

Largely Ferguson has been left on its own to deal with it all; to heap the latest race conversation squarely on its shoulders, and bear the brunt with the dire hope of bringing about change. And there is more than one issue at the heart of race in this town and surrounding the death of Michael Brown. Ferguson has become ground zero for the simmering anger that coincides with discussing and confronting this same issue, time and again, about the importance of black life. How African-Americans still have to take to the streets in this country to say unequivocally that black life has value.

In everything we’ve seen from Ferguson, MO, this week, take away this: Black people are not a plague on society. Black people are not an inscrutable waste of time, and black life isn’t negotiable or negligible, but it is endangered. It is at risk. It is in some instances predisposed to be marked for death. Now more than ever before in history, we have got to find a way to indicate to those who would seek to strike black life down, that we are people. We bleed, we die, we have families, we love, we grieve, we have children, we are children, we are men and women, we are here, we matter, we matter. We matter.

A message to the people of #Ferguson…

“Someday We’ll All Be Free”

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