This past week, on November 24th, the grand jury on the Michael Brown case made the decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson, a 28 year old white male officer, with any crime after he fatally shot Michael Brown, an 18 year old black male.
I woke up in my dorm room that night at 1am, after a nap turned into sleep, to the sound of students protesting the verdict outside.
Protests were happening at the same time in every major city across the U.S.A, and when I turned to the news I heard the following comments on the protests:
“It is so disheartening to see this violence unfold, hopefully it won’t drag on that long.”
“I agree- so sad to hear about this, I just met with some of the businesses last week that are right now being attacked”
“I think we can all agree now that we need to move forward, but we need to move past this violence.”
I looked back out my dorm window and thought about how ridiculously backwards these statements appeared to me. While I completely agree that we need to move past this violence, my definition, as well as the student bodies seemed to sound a little different. The students on campus, as well as people around the country, were protesting the violence that is enacted on innocent people every single day, based on skin color, based on nationality, based on gender, based on religion.
The decisions this past month with Rasmea Odeh (A Palestinian American community leader) first and now Mike Brown, I can’t say I’m surprised that the justice system has failed us, but sometimes I am nevertheless shocked at the bluntness of it’s inequality. This inequality roots so deep in the functionality of the system that sometimes it becomes almost invisible.
As Carol Anderson writes:
“When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.
Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.”
So yes, people are afraid of violence. But the sounds of protests on the streets are not this violence. It is the violence that happens behind closed doors, through sweaty handshakes and the passing of amounts of money none of us could never hope to earn working for the broken system as it stands.
The people are, and should be, fearful of the fact that if you weren’t already in a minority that is targeted, it could easily be you next, it could easily be your neighbor, your sister, your spouse. If your fellow peers, coworkers, citizens, aren’t safe, either are you. Our system is built on the backs of forgotten lives, like Michael Brown, and it is built on injustice and silence. it is built counting on the fact that everyone will turn a blind eye to the number of victims. It’s built on the fact that you won’t get angry as long as the war is happening somewhere else- to someone else. We are constantly witnessing this and we are constantly being told to remain calm and to fear being outspoken.
I don’t know if Michael Brown will be the last black life to be taken without justice, but I do know that these protests, the action I saw on campus that night, and the willingness of people to face this is a step in the right direction, even when the state’s actions seem to be going against the definition of equality and justice.
So with all of the bad meaning behind this verdict, I write this with hope. Hope for the idea that these deaths, these unfair verdicts are not happening in vain. Hope that these protests will continue, and this conversation will continue, and spread like wildfire through major cities. Spread in solidarity with all causes, against the drones dropping in the Middle east, against the Wall blocking Palestinian lives in, against the silencing of inner city communities and PoC voices.
Seeing so many students out on our campus sparked that light even at an hour of darkness. I hope the community remembers that we are strong when we stand together against injustices.
Photos by: Dan Wright
— Noura Kiridly, CCE Fellow