Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Mike Brown. These are the names we know but there are countless others whose names go unspoken and unheard.
This is America. It’s the America that we deny, that we push to forgotten and left-behind places. The America of Stop and Frisk and Link Cards, of minimum wage jobs and foot-on-the-neck policing. We don’t like to see it, but every so often this ‘other’ America wakes up, says enough is enough and demands to be seen.
For that is what we all want – to be seen, recognized and respected.
That’s what happened the day Michael Brown was killed and left in the middle of that street for four and a half hours in his working class neighborhood in Ferguson, Missouri. The young men and women of the Canfield Green apartments stood up and would not take it.
The ensuing response was brutal and real.
People may not want to hear it, but few people would know Mike Brown’s name today if not for the willingness of young black men and women to put their bodies on the line and resist the overtly militaristic response by the Ferguson Police Department. For years the Ferguson police department and the criminal justice system had abused and profited from the community’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
August 9, 2014 pushed the local residents too far.
The gap between rich and poor continues to grow and the folks who are left behind are crystal clear about where they stand. They know the sting of systemic racism and the deprivation of extreme inequality. I admire the protestors’ fight for dignity and respect in the face of these obstacles.
Witnessing the events in the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson was a painful and difficult, but deeply necessary, experience. Although W.EB. Dubois wrote that the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line, the issue of race and equality continues to be the ultimate challenge of our time.
If we choose to deny equal access to a large percentage of our population we will see more events like what occurred in the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing. I hope my work can contribute to our nation finding a new path to full racial and economic equality.