In Search of Justice

Eric Garner and Michael Brown

There have been reams of paper devoted to the murders and life stories of these two black men—well, Brown was actually only on the cusp of adulthood—so I would rather leave you to whatever memories, thoughts, feelings, meditations, and actions these needless deaths called upon you to confront. Each of us has our own tale of where we were the day each of these people were struck down in altercations with cops, one of whom choked Garner to death, and one who shot Brown. Neither of these men’s killers had formal charges or indictments brought against them. Quite naturally, this led their communities—and in fact the whole country—to come together in order to lobby, demonstrate, march, rally, chant, cry, and act out—though vandalizing private property clearly has nothing to do with justice, and is just a reflection of immaturity, greed, and extremely poor judgment.

The Peaceful Side of the Aftermath of 
the Ferguson and New York Verdicts 

The quality of protest, like the quality of life, is not determined by the circumstance, though it might be generated by them. What I mean is that there are many ways to express the grief, outrage, rage, horror, and politics around the current rash of well observed, filmed, and highly publicized killings of Black men by the police. 

On Thursday afternoon, December 11th, dozens of congressional staffers walked out onto the steps of the nation’s Capital to protest the recent and ridiculous, misdirected, and inexcusable decisions by the two grand juries that failed to indict the officers that killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The result was an incredible display of solidarity, with staffers raising their hands in the air to invoke Brown's "Hands up, don't shoot!" image. The following are some of my other favorite photographs of peaceful protests.  

The Not-So-Peaceful Side of the Aftermath of
the Ferguson and New York Verdicts

While I’m on the subject of the police, I thought I’d mention a conversation that was videoed by a woman on her cell phone (click here to watch) of a policeman hassling her during an arrest stop. In the midst of this all, the cop tells her, “You’re a dumb bitch!” All I could think was, “You’re calling her dumb while you are screaming, cursing and battering her as she’s capturing you on her cell phone?” Finally he grabbed her phone and tried unsuccessfully to erase her evidence. I guess he wasn’t cyber-currant enough to know that once it’s there, it’s there.  So I ask you officer, does it seem so smart to treat another human being like that?  


Please note that yes, there was violence by the police, but also violent rioters who burned cop cars, and looted, robbed, and destroyed the property community residents’ families depend on. And let’s not forget how dangerous it is for the police. On Saturday December 20th, as two police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, sat in their parked patrol car in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, where they were assigned for the day, they were shot by Baltimore resident Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a gunman on a mission who had shot his girlfriend before heading to New York. He walked up to the police car and shot each officer directly in the head. Both officers died shortly thereafter. Later, Brinsley fatally shot himself in a subway station. This is a sad state of affairs, and my heart goes out to the families of the policeman, and to the family of their murderer.  

I pray that all this violence stops on both sides of the guns. 

What We Can Do: 
  1. Hold your breath as best you can without inhaling and try to read “I can’t Breathe” aloud eleven times. “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe,” “I can’t Breathe.” Now do it while imagining or replicating strangulation and the weight of big cops on top of you, and you may get close to the last moments of Eric Garner’s life. And revisit the idea that no one is being held accountable.
  2. Remember that the large majority of the police we deal with have a job to do. If we’re speeding, we’re speeding. If we’re breaking and entering, we’re breaking the law. If we break windows and steal stuff, a riot doesn’t give us a reason to behave like a criminal. Yes, tensions build up, but know that everyone is responsible for damage done even if the system is unfair. Unfair is how life sometimes is, but again, “The Quality of Life is not Determined by The Circumstances, but What We Do About Them.” How about rising above your anger? How about doing something to improve your own life and that of others? How about contributing some significant time to improving communities that need help? How about making sure that you treat others the way you want to be treated, including the police? 
  3. Watch Chris Rock. 
    The issues between the police and minority communities are very serious, and there are many serious meetings taking place between police departments and groups of active citizens coming together to create common goals and a variety of possible solutions. But Chris Rock offers up some very solid advice to minorities about how to get along with the police, or as he calls
    this video (click here): How Not to get Your Ass Kicked by the Police. I think you will find it an enlightening and very entertaining way to suggest how to deal with the circumstances that some Americans face on a daily basis. 
  4. Add your voice to the 'comments' section below.

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