There is a firestorm brewing in Ferguson, Missouri. Another young black man is dead at the hands of the police; an entity sworn to uphold and protect all citizens of the community. The killing of this young man brings to the surface feelings of racism further perpetuating the distrust factor of our police force.
This in part may be due to the fact that African Americans have been targeted in gross disproportion to the rest of the residents of this country. We have been the targets of lynchings, bombings, police brutality and uncalled for aggression. We have lived under scrutiny for generations and repeatedly have been told directly and indirectly that our lives do not equate to or hold the same value that is held by others that are not of our race.
We are bombarded with images in the media that remind us that we are not deemed as "good as" our respective counterparts...and yet, we have contributed quite heavily to building the society that condemns us. We still receive the message that we aren't good enough although the message in its delivery is skillfully hidden. After all, we do have African Americans occupying roles of leadership in all areas of the societal structure of our country. We are in boardrooms. We do run companies. We do manage others in many areas of business. But simply because this is true does not translate to full equality.
I do not say this in anger. I say this as a matter of fact.
I did not know Michael Brown personally, but in many ways, he represents me in part and my family as a whole. I have three younger brothers. What happened to him could easily have happened to one of my brothers...or my cousins...or my nephews...or to me.
Some people don't understand that. Those same people that don't have probably not been the victims of racial profiling. They have not experienced the dark side of the history of this country as we have and don't see what the problem is. And yet, the problem is so simple to identify that it is frightening.
African Americans are simply tired. We are tired of being told indirectly that we are second class citizens despite the fact that we pretty much live where we want, marry who we want and raise our children where we want. Our lives do matter. The lives of our young men matter. We are demanding the respect and recognition that is long overdue.
Michael Brown will be portrayed as a thug which is commonplace in sensationalized cases like this. Somehow, the story will be spun to justify the killing of this young man. And in that spin, he will be painted in an unflattering light. Very rarely will the media paint the victim as a potential doctor or lawyer. They will not say that he could have been a highly respected contributing member of society. After all, stories like that doesn't sell.
What is needed but will in all probability not happen is for a major restructuring of society to take place. Black life needs to matter, not just in complicated circumstances like this but in all issues overall. I live by the ideology of knowing my worth. After living on this earth for a little over half a century, I now place significant value on myself, but it isn't for the reasons that you may think. It's is not one thing that makes me who I am, but rather a unique collection of working parts that have come together to shape and mold me into someone who will stand up and dare says the words, "I matter...even if you don't think I do!"
I matter because I still strive to be something great and will leave a wonderful legacy behind me when it comes time for me to meet my maker. I matter, not because of my black skin and full lips, but because of what those full lips and black skin represent! I am representational of every success and every failure made because that is what makes me human. That is what has made me me and shaped me into the man that I have become and still strive to be.
We will never know what Michael Brown would have become. But there are other "Michael Browns and Trayvon Martin's" out there. And like it or not, until equal value is placed on all life, we will continue to have riots and periods of unrest because eventually, people will get tired of hearing that the lives of their fathers, son's, brothers, nephews and grandsons don't matter! And with that fatigue will come a response...much like what you are seeing in Ferguson, Missouri!
~ J.L. Whitehead