Spotlight on Ferguson Highlights Greater Systematic Injustice

When I was first given the option to write about Ferguson, I decided to not say anything because it wasn’t my place. It still isn’t, but I’m going to say something anyways.

Four months ago Michael Brown was shot to death in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri by Darren Wilson. The death has caused much speculation and outrage over both police brutality and race relations in America, which many believe were what was behind the deadly force used against Brown.  Wilson’s questionable motivations behind the slaughter of Brown gained national attention and the case was soon brought to a Grand Jury which would decide if Wilson would even be tried for the death of Brown. However, two weeks ago Darren Wilson was acquitted of any wrongdoing, and the nation began to explode.

I too began to explode. Ferguson is screwed up. You have a highly questionable Grand Jury session and a rigged system that completely acquits an individual for his more than likely unnecessary murder of a young black man, and then a society that pays this same individual at least half a million dollars for his “trouble.” How can you not be outraged?

Most people (mainly white), would agree that we live in a post-racial society. Yet we have at least half of the nation agreeing that the death of a black youth is justifiable, even if the causes of which remain shrouded in convolution and misinformation. They just look at these black individuals and the color of their skin and assume that they were doing something wrong that incited this police officer to kill them. Very few facts are present in this case. Just speculation. And that whittles the conversation down to what assumptions everyone has of this crime, which is that Brown, being black, created a situation where Wilson was justified in shooting him 6 times. Most of America is trying to justify this murder, just like it tried to do with the case that surrounded Trayvon Martin. People don’t want to be told, or even shown, that there is still a racial dichotomy in our nation. They would rather believe that after MLK, everything got better. But just because the wound closed up, doesn’t mean the scar isn’t there.

Let’s look at Tamir Rice. Let’s look at Eric Garner. Two of the more prominent murders that have come to the attention of the nation since Brown’s own murder four months ago, both of which were due to the overwhelming negligence of police officers. Rice, a 12 year old boy who was playing with an imitation rifle, was mistaken for an adult male by officers and subsequently shot and died from wounds a day later. That happened two weeks ago. Garner was filmed, FILMED, as being put into an illegal chokehold and strangled to death by a police officer in New York back in July. There’s a video that you can watch, though I will warn you that it is incredibly sad, distressing, and disgusting to watch. That same officer was also recently not indicted for the murder of Garner. So how can you tell me, or anyone else for that matter, that blacks are ever asking for it? That they somehow, and I use this word with bile in the back of my throat, deserve to be treated in such an inhumane and despicable way? You may say that these are isolated incidents, but I am telling you that these are not isolated incidents. These are merely the result of social media bringing these select murders into the societal stream of consciousness. These types of incidents happen daily and many of them are either swept under the rug or just not viewed as “important.” And sad to say, it’s been like this all along but it’s just getting harder to hide it.

So I am glad that Ferguson has become such a huge issue. I’m glad that New York has too. I’m not glad that any of this had to happen, and I deeply regret what happened to Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and the countless other poor young black men and women who have lost their lives to this combination of police brutality, racial profiling, and racist societal lens. But I live in the present, not “what-ifs” and I have to say that I am glad that these incidents have created such an uproar. That they have brought the nation to the attention of the underlying tensions that still brew in the nations’ bloodstream.  I just hope that people don’t forget about it in a few months. Yet I know that they will.

So if there I anything you do right now, while the stove is still hot, is that I ask you become educated; I said earlier that I felt that it wasn’t my place to talk about what is happening in Ferguson and in other states like New York or Ohio. And I still hold on to that fact. It is not my place to talk about Ferguson and other crimes against black lives. That is something that only black individuals can talk about. They are the ones who have been living their lives with the knowledge that they can be the next Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, or whomever if they’re caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. As someone who has never been able to experience that, I firmly believe that I cannot convey just how messed up their relationship with America is, nor can I assume that I can understand it either. So please, use my article as a starting point. Whether it be to argue against me or to side with me, or to add something or subtract something, please use this as a moment to become educated. To sit down and shut up. This is not your or my time in the spotlight, but theirs. Do not make this about you or another issue. Listen and support.

Alec Snavely is a fifth year Electrical Engineering and English double major. He can be reached at asnavely@uci.edu.