I had been thinking about what I wanted to say in response to the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. And then, the grand jury decision not to indict the New York City police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner became public yesterday. The thought that continues to rattle around in my brain is, “These families are without their loved ones this holiday season because of senseless police brutality.” To say that I am baffled, in disbelief, profoundly sad, and enraged would just be touching the tip of the iceberg.
Last night I found myself in standstill traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway. I could hear helicopters overhead and see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles ahead so I assumed there had been a recent accident. Turns out, protestors had literally taken to the streets giving voice to the injustices of the Eric Garner tragedy. Initially, the cynic in me thought, “What good is this going to do?” Plus, I just wanted to get home. Unable to do anything but watch I began to make eye contact with each protestor who would look me in the eyes as they walked past the car I was in. I must have made eye contact with at least 50 people last night. People of all ages, sizes, shapes, colors, and backgrounds. I found myself silently crying as I continued to meet the eyes of people who had chosen to do something with their outrage. In meeting the eyes of everyone who was willing to join me in that connection I saw nothing but humans, no skin color or ethnicity, and I felt nothing but connection with other humans. This is what has been lost amongst all of this, humanity.
The loud, clear message that black men’s lives are not as valuable as those of white men is echoing through this country right now. Whether you, personally, believe that or not, it is fact. I, as a white woman, have to acknowledge that I, without doing anything, receive special preference and protection in this society simply because of the skin color I was born with, something I have no control over. I highly recommend reading this if you have any doubt as to the injustices those with darker skin colors face on a daily basis.
I highly recommend we all take a long, hard look at ourselves and ask how we can collectively come together and create a society that values ALL humans and treats ALL humans as equals. Racism exists and it is tearing apart our communities. Michael Brown and Eric Garner have shined a light on something this society has tried to deny and sweep under the carpet for far too long. We cannot progress until we can openly admit that these two men would still be alive if the color of their skin had been lighter. They were humans who were loved and loved others. Their deaths were inhumanely cruel and unjust. We have to do better. All of us. To paraphrase what Eric Garner’s mother said in a press conference, do what you have to do, but do it peacefully.