Recently, two unarmed young black men were killed by police officers in a St. Louis suburb and in the city of Los Angeles while the circumstances surrounding the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson County remain disputed with only the eyewitness account of his friend on record thus far. Ferguson County police have yet to release the identity of the officer who shot Brown. Then, on Monday in Los Angeles, 25-year-old Ezell Ford was shot and killed by police officers, and the tragedy is that none of these men should have died.
These events are chilling reminders of the finiteness and fragility of life. Young black men are dying every day—usually at their own hands. Some say that is a form of suicide—that life loses its value when hope for a meaningful existence all but fades away. Young black men learn to hate and devalue themselves to point where shooting another black youth can be done without any compunction.
The two shootings by police are a reminder that race still matters in America. The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States supposedly ushered in a new era of color-blindness as the ultimate glass ceiling had been broken. President Obama had been elected not once, but twice. It should be enough evidence that racism was no longer a factor in America—that it was time to close the door on that ugly and disgraceful chapter in our history. But no, it seems that racism and the hopelessness caused by racial disparities in opportunity and accomplishment has reared its ugly head again.
How The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown Movement Changed The Conversation About Michael Brown's Death http://t.co/hoYJeYnjKE pic.twitter.com/ckz73wwsT0
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) August 13, 2014
According to the New York Times,
Like hundreds of young African-Americans, he placed his pictures under the hashtag#IfTheyGunnedMeDown, protesting Mr. Brown’s killing by a police officer and the way young black men are depicted in the news media. He said that Mr. Brown’s identity was distorted and filtered through negative stereotypes, and that the same would have been done to him with the bandanna image if he found himself the victim of a similar event. Read Full Article
Reading some of the hateful comments in response to news articles about young Mr. Brown’s death is a reminder of how frightful it still is to be black in some parts of this country. Seeing the riots and looting that followed an unwarranted show of force by police at what started out as a peaceful rally, reminded me of the aftermath of Rodney King’s beating at the hands of the Los Angeles police.
Having been in the city shortly before the King incident, I knew that the fire and rage in the streets had little to do with Rodney King but that the incident had lit aflame the smoldering anger that existed in LA after a Korean storekeeper was acquitted of fatally shooting a young black girl in the head for allegedly stealing a container of juice.
Top pic is a suspect, bottom of a Victim!! #IfTheyGunnedMeDown Is just a hashtag but it holds incredible meaning. pic.twitter.com/l8g7jOnlul
— Polly Irungu (@pollyirungu) August 12, 2014
The shooting of unarmed Michael Brown ignited the anger that had been smoldering in Ferguson County for decades. Stoked by the distrust and hatred that has been building up between the black community and white police, Michael Brown’s shooting death lit the fuse. Readers’ comments following the news accounts about the riots and looting were vile and hateful. While no argument can be made to justify unlawful acts, some of the most vicious comments described people who did not deserve to live.
Michael Brown was one of them. Reading those comments made me sick to my stomach and took my thoughts back to how as a kid I could never understand what made white people lynch black people. I read the comments because I wanted to know what people were thinking. It seemed both rioters and commenters alike were losing their minds.
Clouded thinking seems to be the order of the day. Morally compassed thinking people would be able to compromise and develop solutions that would help better the country and its citizens. These deaths can be redeeming if they make us take a hard look at what our society has become and to understand the need to place greater attention on mental wellness.