By Kevin Daniels
Toward the end of 2014, a level of extreme rage escalated in reaction to a recent verdict that did not indict a white officer, Darren Wilson, for the unjust homicide of an unarmed black teenage male named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. All around the nation, chants of protest resounding “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “No Justice, No Peace” became the language of the unheard. As this injustice stirred widespread frustration, many concerned Americans collaborated together to help reform and closely track the use of unnecessary police force against the citizens whom law enforcement is bound to protect and keep safe.
Forums, rallies, and worship services were also arranged in order to provide opportunities of conversation in which people could strategically raise their concerns for the state of respect for Black life. On December 1st, the city of Atlanta convened inside the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church for a community forum and worship service for people of various ethnicities, faith backgrounds and cultural paths of human civilization. The Horizon Sanctuary was packed to capacity as musical expressions of hope were rendered and words of collective exhortation were offered there.
The keynote speaker, Attorney General Eric Holder, had previously been in a private, one-on-one meeting with President Barack Obama prior to landing in Atlanta for the event. “We ignore our truths [as a country],” said Holder. He prefaced his speech by stating that the concerns for the increasing rates of police brutality are very alarming in cities across America. Holder delineated a tactical approach of the White House on part of the Obama administration that is intended to address this issue of ethics: 1) monitoring the militarization of law enforcement by distributing proper weaponry to the appropriate personnel; 2) employing the use of body cameras on police – investment of $263 million dollars in over 50,000 body cameras nationwide; 3) preventing racial profiling, unnecessarily done by officers and 4) examining the current state of policing.
Rekindling the revolutionary flame of a persistent civil and human rights struggle, Attorney Holder reminded the audience, “the most successful movements [in human history] are birthed out of non-violence”, indicating that “we must [also] elevate our conversation”. In keeping with that sentiment, the host pastor of the community forum, Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock re-iterated that the “community must create the climate of change”. The community must build a regimen of resolution in order to ensure that this climate of change is gradual and sustainable.
As an educated young African-American man, I sense that the fight for freedom has translated to the need for institutional reform. Although equal protection is naturally granted to the American constituency under law, the contemporary trend of Jim Crow-ism runs rampant in the United States of America as it pertains to criminal procedure and due process. It is more likely that a black male is incarcerated long-term for a suspected homicide awaiting a trial than for a white male to be indicted for evident manslaughter as the former is a more “profitable” situation. Therefore, the insatiable hunger for undemocratic capital and power in American leadership has attempted to mute the cries for justice, equality and freedom emanating from the downtrodden, disenfranchised and disinherited.
Living in America, I feel that my presence is only tolerated and perceived as a threat to American society. I am thoroughly convinced that the mainstream moral conscience of this country related to the value of Black lives has been exposed of its truth in the eyes of the majority population. Unequivocally speaking, I believe that all human lives matter and are sacred. Echoing the words of a fellow citizen from Ferguson who also spoke at the forum, Goldie Tayler, “the state of emergency has always been upon us.”
Ferguson is a mere representation of the much broader, broken infrastructure of American society. This miscarriage of justice is a diagnosis of a horrible sickness that has infected the ethics of the American legal system. The United States of America is suffering from a systematic illness that has gone untreated, wreaking more havoc toward its cultural and political awareness. Every 28 hours, a Black youth is killed in some part of this country. To date, 324 unarmed Black people have been killed in 2014 alone nationwide.
If America is serious about engaging this prevalent dilemma, the notions of equality and justice must first be re-evaluated. This re-evaluation entails internal evaluation of institutional frailties. In other words, Ferguson can be anywhere in America. From a personal standpoint, I assert that Ferguson is America. For example, the lack of quality education in the urban environment is reflective of the absent empathy of the government whose leaders have been elected by its stakeholding constituency, so to speak. Yet, conversation, consistency and commitment comprise the engine that drives informing one’s self and each other about the social problems that reside at the core of communities in America.
When the community speaks through its actions such as protests, the system is forced to empathize, listen and challenge its usual order of business. When an injustice arises, the community is responsible for lifting its concerns and taking its own stand. When such an injustice is the degrading dehumanization of any life, the society should desire to reform its policies and procedures even if angry protest is the caveat by which that is conveyed. However, now is the time for the United States of America to be schooled by its own academy.
Time is out for convenient and cute avoidances of real, raw issues that stunt the growth of our cultural conscience. Now is not the time to advertise or publicize one’s own racial bias. “This is a kairos moment,” stated Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of the King Center and daughter of the slain civil rights leader, theologian and pastor, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The time to move from chaos to community is now! If we are unwilling to address the most intricate concerns of all humanity, we must re-examine what America is. Is America really for everyone? Better yet, why does America permit history to repeat itself? It’s time to pay attention.