Mike Brown: Let’s talk about it.

I hope that you will excuse me for not writing about this issue immediately. But for someone like me who studies these types of issues regularly it takes a while before my mind distills the various disparate arguments into something that makes sense for me. All that is to say it takes time for real events to break through my desensitized defense mechanism and for me to focus in on the fact that another human being’s life was taken in a meaningless fashion.

And yes I’ve heard the arguments about how Black people do this type of thing to Black people all the time and how I should be equally as outraged about that as I am about a young Black man getting gunned down by the police at the age of 18 just three or so days before he was set to attend a technical school.

For those who would proffer that argument I say touché, but take this into account.

  • Take into account that one young man living at or near an environment where Black men get put in jail or murdered at alarming rates was actually on a path which was going to take him out of that situation.
  • . Take into account all the friends and family members who struggled, sacrificed, and prayed so that just one young man might break the cycle.
  • Try and understand that there are everyday ordinary African Americans who do things both simple and complex so that they can say to the system “no…you won’t have my son.”
  • Can you understand a situation wherein it is actually an accomplishment to not only survive to the age of 18, but to do it with a clean record and pick up a high school diploma along the way?
  • Can you understand that this particular young man’s life was full of potential, and that potential had been nurtured by an entire community?
  • Can you understand victory over poverty does not happen overnight, but that victory over poverty takes generations of families overcoming their singular struggle, until they have a window of opportunity?

Now imagine that singular window of opportunity being snapped shut prematurely, because one police officer took a rash action against a young man who failed to exhibit the proper self-control for just a moment.

What I think people do not understand is that when that police officer killed Mike Brown, he did not just kill one young Black man.

  • He killed the hopes, dreams, and prayers of an entire community.
  • He killed a mother’s wishes that her son would have a life better than the one she had.
  • He killed the dreams and aspirations of young people who might have gotten a chance to see a Mike Brown grow up and become a successful doctor, lawyer, or teacher, that comes back to the community and shows them how it’s done.
  • He did gross injustice to the quintessentially American idea that even if you make a momentary mistake you might have a chance at redemption.
  • . He reinforced the idea that at least for African American males a single misstep could mean death.
  • He spat in the face of an entire community’s act of defiance against the heinous acts perpetrated by Black males against each other.

What people don’t understand is that in an environment where few make it out alive and others are usually carted out to go behind bars, one family producing a Mike Brown is actually an act of protest. Not only against the system, but also against all those young Black men who might be standing on the corner dealing drugs or involved in the kind of murderous violence that is associated with the drug trade. A Mike Brown coming out of the community is a ray of light to other young Black males that they don’t have to do that. A Mike Brown shows young Black males in the community that there is another way. For Black men our willingness to step into the game and succeed at it is our testimony. We fight by striving for success the best way we can despite all the racial and economic obstacles we face. The success of a few Mike Browns gives us all hope that while the plight of young African American males might be grim today, there is radiant hope for tomorrow.

What I want people to see is that when that police officer thoughtlessly shot Mike Brown 6 times and killed him, he sent the message to the entire community in Ferguson that it doesn’t matter what you do. A single mistake might cost you your life and not because you fell in with the wrong crowd, but because you are in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, at the wrong time, and you’re the wrong color.

So for all the people who want to focus on what Mike Brown may or may not have allegedly been doing before he was murdered in the street let’s think about what police officers are supposed to be doing. Their motto says “protect and serve”, yet evidence shows they were just as likely to harass and intimidate citizens in certain parts of Ferguson. Again their motto says “protect and serve”, not judge and terminate. So why is it that young Black men are continuously getting killed by authorities without an arrest or due process? Is that the American way?

Whatever his faults, Mike Brown was a light for his community and on Saturday August 9th that light was switched off permanently and prematurely. It’s no wonder that ever since then Ferguson has been experiencing some very dark days.