It took a kick in the ass from someone I respect to help me push through my apathy long enough to complete a sentence about the murder of Missouri teenager, Mike Brown.
Maybe apathy isn’t the right word.
It’s not that I didn’t care. I overslept this morning because I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading news articles and following the Twitter timelines of people like Tef Poe, local alderman Antonio French and Vandalyzm, who have been on location from the beginning.
Their reporting of what’s happening on the ground in Ferguson and St. Louis, Mo., including eyewitness accounts of police action and direct participation in the tense but non-violent protests, served as a welcome check to the some of the misinformation that leaked from the national news media.
On those timelines, I saw grim-faced police officers aim snarling dogs at crowds of peaceful citizens in photos that looked eerily similar to those from the not so distant civil rights era of America’s past. I saw video of police officers pointing assault rifles at people driving down the street. I saw pregnant women snatched out of cars and slammed to the ground by the very people charged with their protection. I saw tanks and body armor in residential neighborhoods. I saw broken windows and convenience stores razed to the ground. Worst of all, I saw the lifeless body of an 18-year-old who was killed just hours before he was to attend his first day of college.
So why even waste my time? So many other writers are more educated, more talented, more politically active and aware than I am. What do I really add to the conversation?
If what we derisively refer to as “think pieces” could actually do anything, Eric Garner would still be alive to play with his grandkids, and we would be living in Utopia. If I could type the weaponization of black skin away, I would. If another handful of paragraphs could make my mere existence less threatening to the gun-wielding police officers and vigilantes of the world, then that job would have already been done long ago.
I write because sometimes life is so unfair and sad that I have to see the words on the screen to remind me that it’s actually happening. We live in a world where, depending on whom you ask; innocent black people are gunned down every 24 to 36 hours. We live in a world where it is perfectly sensible to proffer pictures of a menacing scowl or a supposed gang sign as justification for killing an innocent kid.
The same world where our leaders and politicians think having a father and pulling your pants up will make you human to a police officer that is trained through policy and the media that you are not.
I’ve marched, signed petitions, shared angry words and tears with friends and families. I’ve worn the hoodies and the t-shirts. I’ve changed my avatars on social media.
Today, I write. I know my aimless words won’t change anyone’s mind. They won’t make the police any less fearful of my existence. They won’t bring back Mike Brown, or Eric Garner, or John Crawford, or Renisha McBride, or Jordan Davis, or Oscar Grant, or Trayvon Martin and the countless other men and women who were killed because their skin is a guilty verdict and death sentence in and of itself.
For now, I will watch the words appear on the screen and hope for the best, even though all evidence and history points to the worst.