Monday night, we are preparing for the day to eliminate violence against women. This usually involves a lot of debating of ideas and ideals, but not this particular Monday night, not this day to eliminate violence against women, not in this country. Instead, the silence was deafening in the shadow of a looming anxiety. The phone goes off, CNN breaking news: “An announcement of a decision is expected today in the Michael Brown shooting.” The stillness is burning in the background of an uncertain wait. A stillness burning in a low intrinsic insecurity, buzzing with a murmuring ineradicable distrust that shakes in a long, waving object of memory and history. This is a well-deserved mistrust, in a well overdue wait for justice.
It’s that moment again. The feeling of history mounting on the backs of both melanin spectrums, constantly being invoked with every gunshot and nightstick slamming into and through the skin of black youths, black women, Latinas, Latinos, black men, Brown women, Brown men. It’s as if with every ounce of melanin the stakes are higher. The chances of walking down the street and being approached are more dangerous. The chances of getting pulled over are graver. The extent to avoid the police more pertinent. Whatever you do, do not express your “blackness,” your “Afrocentricness”— it can be a matter of freedom and jail, life and death. Also, be very weary, especially in the presence of the melanin-deficient, of expressing anything less than what is deemed whitepropriate. Just two days ago a report is released: a twelve year old dies in hospital as doctors try to save his life after a police “accident.” The boy was carrying a pellet gun in a park when a man called the police to alert them that he didn’t know if the gun was real or not. Bang, another black youth dead. Police told him to drop the weapon, the twelve year old not knowing better didn’t comply. No, they didn’t rope off the park, try to talk a twelve-year-old boy down, or wait it out. Bang, an empty school desk on Monday, where a black youth would have sat. Somehow the police could disarm Jared Lee Loughner who shot Congress Person Gabrielle Giffords in the head, a heavily armed James Eagan Holmes, but not a twelve year old. There was also 37-year-old Tanesha Anderson just weeks ago. Tanesha survives with bi-polar disorder and was having a manic episode. Her family called the police to help calm her. She’s dead now. Police slammed her on the pavement outside her own home. Then there are the high-profile cases of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, standing in the shadows of the history of Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, standing in the shadows separate and definitely not treated like equals, Jim Crow, lynching and slavery. The American genocide of blacks, conversation deferred, rudiment and history ignored. But the headline blares on:
CNN Breaking: The grand jury’s decision on whether to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson will be announced at 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET).
The news pundits start making their predictions on mainstream media as if we are talking about a horse race or a football game and not a child’s life. Facebook feeds and twitter were breaking. Toni Morrison brilliantly noted on the Stephen Colbert Report just days ago, “There’s no such thing as race. None. It’s just the human race. Scientifically, anthropologically.” Race is a construct, but racism is very real, and social media across the United States vitalized in its realness. Not all, but many, many whites support Darren Wilson, not knowing why. Given the facts, Brown was unarmed and now he has been dead for three months. All the bullet casing on the floor at the scene were fired from Officer Darren Wilson’s gun. Brown laid dead 135 feet away from the car he was in. Two of Officer Wilson’s bullets struck Brown in the head. Meaning if there was a tussle and hypothetically Wilson fired and Brown ran, Brown was still unarmed and Wilson could pursue him and make the arrest. If Brown was shot in the head once and could still move a distance of a 135 feet, then there would be no reason to fire a mortally wounding blast. At 9PM Eastern Standard Time it would be decided, not if Wilson was guilty, but if there would be an indictment and a trial. So, how could so many white people refute those facts and blindly stand by an officer they didn’t know? Just as there is an African-American collective conscience, there is also a white collective conscience and one can imagine whites must see themselves on trial for a history they may not have committed but nonetheless have benefited from endlessly.
George Orwell chronicled in his unpublished preface to Animal Farm, “censorship in free societies is infinitely more sophisticated and thorough than in dictatorships because unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban.” Nothing can provide more support to the aforementioned than what happened at 9PM and there afterwards.
At 9PM: We see through the television into an empty courtroom. Outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, MO, hundreds of people stand outside awaiting the verdict with car radios playing the news of what was happening inside the courtroom. A CNN pundit relays that many of the people “aren’t from Ferguson,” almost like there might be a vested interest in justice, as if the United States is a country. We guess the Obama 2004 Democratic National Convention Speech that ascended his rise to the Presidency in which he stipulated, there were no blue or red states, “there’s the United States of America,” has gone out the window. How far out the window the plastic credo has gone was waiting in the wings of the courtroom.
Ten minutes later things start to move in the court. Radios outside the courtroom: “Ferguson schools will be closed tomorrow following a state of emergency implemented by Governor Nixon.”
Enter into the courtroom state prosecutor Robert McCulloch. Quickly he reminds everyone listening and watching why we are tuned in. He notifies viewers that everything we have heard on the mainstream media is mostly unjustified. He relays that many of the witnesses on the scene at the time of the shooting’s testimonies were dismissed. “The duty of the grand jury,” which was mostly white, by the way, “is to separate fact from fiction,” he says. Then McCulloch relays that there was no probable cause on any of the five indictments. He then relays multiple times that Michael Brown had reached around the counter in a local store and stole some cigars of which the total cost would be a couple of dollars.
Malcolm X, Oxford Union Debate, 1964: “Where I’m from, our lives aren’t worth two-cents and the government has shown its inability, or either its unwillingness to protect life and property where the black American is concerned.”
Robert McCulloch notes that Michael Brown fit the description of a call heard over his radio of a black male, who had stolen some cigars from a convenience store. Darren Wilson exchanged words with Brown, who continued walking down the street. Wilson observed as chronicled by McCulloch, that Brown had the same cigars in his hand that were stolen from the previously mentioned store. May seem trivial but, how many criminals do you know would walk down the street waving the booty of their conquest in front of the authority who can end their freedom? Wilson then radioed for backup. He backed his car up blocking traffic. An altercation ensues at Wilson’s police vehicle with Wilson sitting in the driver’s side of that vehicle and Brown outside the vehicle. Bang. One shot is fired. Apparently a bullet wasn’t enough to send Brown running. Bang, a second bullet is fired. Brown runs. Wilson chases him down. Then according to the prosecution, Michael Brown turns around, unarmed toward the man that just fired two shots at him. Brown begins to walk toward Wilson. Wilson fires more shots and Brown is fatally wounded. At that moment, the assist car, or backup arrives. McCulloch relays that ninety-seconds elapsed between the initial contact between Officer Wilson and Brown. In ninety seconds, Brown assaults Wilson in his vehicle, Wilson fires two shots, Brown makes a run, stops, turns back at the officer chasing him, and walks towards him, unarmed.
McCulloch continues, “Physical evidence does not go away or change because of public pressure,” nor will history. Now, history is being made. It is being made in the name of a twelve year old boy who was shot in the park, it is being made in the name of Tanesha Anderson, it is ringing out in the names of the dozens of women physically abused, sexually abused, or ended by police in the United States. It is swelling the river of the Mississippi from Ferguson, Missouri and flowing North, South, East and West. It is swelling in the name of Marissa Alexander. It is boiling in the name of Trayvon Martin, and it is breaking the levees in the name of Michael Brown.
Next came the riots. Yet, these riots were different. They fused in anger ignited in patience worn thread thin. Yet despite the looting highlighted by CNN and manifold for the world to regurgitate, something different is happening. Bloods and Crips, two gangs who have long been mortal enemies, were guarding storefronts saying ‘no looting here’. In New York City, rivers of vast diversity flowed together from Union Square to Times Squares. African-Americans, Africans, Caribbean-Americans, Hispanics, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Irish, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, Whites flowed together in the hundreds.
The cry for intersectional unity rang out from the diverse union gathered at a Harlem, NYC church as Linda Sarsour’s soul reflected, “This is not about Black and White. This is not about us vs. law enforcement. I am not anti-law enforcement, I am anti-law enforcement misconduct and so should everyone else. We should be against misconduct where ever it is happening.” The LGBTQIA was out in full force. Palestinian liberation fronts were out. All of these people marching as one. In Washington State, the Mayor of Seattle marched hand in hand with the protestors. Despite the pockets of violence, most of which is being facilitated by police and white agitators provoking marchers, this is a movement in unity to shatter the paradigm. A tacit agreement burning as the sun shatters on the rubble of the night only to be reborn in the morning in unity.
Now more than ever, people from the marginalized, minority, fringed, silenced, locked away corners of society need to mould together like clumps of the earth’s original clay. Only then will we see clearly that we are not the “minority” that we are conveniently and reductively labelled as. We are approaching half of the USA’s population, and even as our numbers grow, and even after more than half of the babies being born in the US as of 2012 belong to us so-called “minorities,” the mainstream media considers it appropriate to label us the impending “majority-minority.” In what maths class does one learn that being more than 50% of something is still somehow referred to as a “minority” of the whole?
You could argue that all of the parts together are small and therefore are minorities—black, brown, yellow—wait, what…?
We are not crayons.
We are human beings, with feelings, and experiences, thoughts of our own, along with dreams and goals that were created as kids in classrooms—where we were told that we could grow up to be anything we wanted to be in America. We have families that sometimes irritate us and we watch bad movies after a long day to unwind. Or maybe we don’t—that’s the thing about people. Unless you actually talk to them about what they think and how they live their life, you really have no clue.
Until you spend time getting to know people from outside of your group, you will not see just how similar “others” are to you. So what are you left with when real-life experiences are missing? Stories and carefully crafted images that a well-constructed and oiled media machine slips into your eye sockets until it soaks into your consciousness and saturates your view of the entire external world. The media has one job: to make you think a certain way. And depending on whether you consider yourself a “liberal” or a “conservative,” your choice of news will be very different from someone who makes the opposite choice.
Arguing about whether you’re on the left or the right politically is like arguing about whether you like pizza or sushi—it is such a moot point and almost completely inconsequential to what goes on in our actual daily lives. Honestly, think about it. Think about the top five things that boil your blood when you watch or read the news. It might go something like this: people just like you and your family being threatened by an enemy; infringement of personal freedom; dumbasses on the other side saying stupid things; and maybe a few other personal things, since we are unique after all. At the end of the day, no matter what our actual preferences are, we care about the same basic things that define us as Americans: protecting ourselves and the people we love, and being able to live our lives as we see fit.
What could make us all more similar than that? I realize that this concept doesn’t get clicks and sell advertisements, but at what point did ad clicks come to justify destroying our common humanity? All division is specifically designed so that the populace is easier to control: the more articles that are spread around with divisive opinions to easily divide the populace, the more ad revenue is generated for the people who are smart enough to use our fear and hate to their myopic advantage.
Not knowing people but making broad-sweeping generalizations about them to bolster fear is dangerous. It is these biases that allow people to make knee-jerk reactions to justify the vile and violent treatment of purposefully marginalized groups at the hands of gun-toting aggressors who serve those above them with all of the power and authority.
Together, we are not minorities. We are a force. But society is currently structured in a way to keep those in power still in power and to keep us thinking that we are smaller than we are—what else is the word “minority” supposed to accomplish, but to try and make us feel diminished, parcelled, fragmented, and ultimately, invisible and unimportant? We, together, are not a minority. And we have to stop acting like some of us are better than others in these marginalized groups, based on the internalized racism that has brainwashed us into thinking that we are different from each other.
In the end, we—all of us together—are not a minority. Together, we are the people, of the United States, and in order to establish a more perfect union, must establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to everyone.
About the authors:
Jason ‘Jayology’ Jeremias is the artistic director of the performing arts collective for women’s rights Price of Silence.
Suzanne Mahadeo is a writer and editor from Queens, New York, based out of Panama. She can be found at www.suzannemahadeo.com
Featured image credit: Che Brandes-Tuka