Michael Brown has been eulogized and buried.
Family, friends, indeed a nation mourns the senseless loss of a mother’s son. As the father of two sons, my heart sank at learning of the killing of yet another young black male. The image of one of my own boys lying on a street with six gunshot wounds terrifies and angers me.
For well over two weeks, we have witnessed the community of Ferguson, Missouri, struggle to come to grips with its past and its future. But the same can be said for the rest of us as well. We continue to be “shocked” when we hear about the death of a Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner but seem impervious to the startling losses that occur, for example, on the streets of Chicago.
We turn our eyes away from the day to day harshness and unforgiving glare of police tape and covered bodies on the streets of our communities only to become engaged when someone decides that “this senseless killing” demands more attention than all the others.
Black and white America is quick to place the blame on the systemic issues of poor education, unemployment, militarized police, drugs and a host of other ills — and we are right to do so. But we are disconcertingly uncomfortable with addressing the underlying issues of race; how race is used by whites as a weapon against the black community and as an excuse by blacks for the harm we do to ourselves.
We have marched, passed legislation and witnessed the election of America’s first black president, and yet the black community as a whole and young black men in particular remains a racial stereotype to the point that merely walking from a convenience store or selling untaxed cigarettes is perceived as a “threat” and requires an extreme response.
And while we will rise up against such indignities, we seem paralyzed against, if not accepting of, the continual degradation of the fabric of black families and neighborhoods because of the crime we commit against each other.
We do not live in a “post-racial” America, and we must be honest with ourselves and our children about that. No doubt enormous strides have been made since the days blacks were water-hosed for seeking an education or refused service because they wanted a meal at a lunch counter or lynched for looking at a white woman.
But what does it say about these times when a black male can be shot, and authorities appear annoyed that the community wants to protest his killing? What does it also say about the black community that each day, each week, each month, more of our future is lost to gunfire, failing classrooms, boarded up businesses, a lack of parenting and teen pregnancies?
How are we prepared to respond to the increased incidents of targeting black males? How do we expect any changes if we don’t vote? What should we say to our sons who have been told this is a “different America” than the one their grandparents grew up in?
The deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Victor White III, Patrick Dorsimond, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker and the 423 victims in Chicago in 2013, are solemn reminders of the ground we find ourselves standing on today. However, where we stand today is not necessarily where we will be tomorrow.
Our history speaks to that.
But wherever we are, this moment does cry out for us to finally and honestly answer some fundamental questions about ourselves and America before we can move forward. It begins with the acknowledgement that whites and blacks cannot resolve the obvious problems until we deal with discreet issues of race and racism that exist between and among us.