by Douglas Hardman
Many of us were not around in the ’60s, surely. But we have our grandparents who were, or we at least know someone from that generation. Just imagine the horror on their faces when they turn on their TVs or read a newspaper and start having flashbacks. One of the most terrifying comments to come out of the Ferguson protests was a tweet from an individual whose grandmother compared the events to what was happening to the black population in the 60’s.
As most of America’s population already knows, Mike Brown, an unarmed black youth, was shot by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, after Brown was suspected of burglarizing a convenience store. As the story goes, Brown held his hands up and said, “Don’t shoot,” before, what police are calling, a “struggle” broke out and Brown ended up dead.
It just goes without saying: Brown was innocent. Why was he targeted? He was stereotyped as a thug simply because he was a black youth in a hoodie. This says a lot about racism and how it’s alive and well even in the year 2014. But not only that, it also gives reality to the comment from above: we are reliving the 60’s. We live in a world where young people of color (POC) can be shot on the streets simply because they look a certain way. If that’s not racial discrimination in your view, then you are blind.
One of the most interesting things to come from the Ferguson situation was the Twitter worldwide trend #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. This hashtag was used to demonstrate the racial discrimination involving deaths of POC in the media, because the media gave justification for Brown’s death. Twitter users would post two pictures of themselves: one in which they would be stereotyped as “black” or “a thug” and one in which they look the opposite of their stereotype (i.e., successful and educated). Then, they attached the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, and said, “Which picture would they use?”
Eventually, the Twitter trend was used by white people in the same exact way. However, the problem with this is that the media does not justify the deaths of white people the police’s hands. We live in a society where white people don’t have to come up with hashtags like #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, because if a white person were killed by the police, the police would actually be held responsible. That, my friends, is white supremacy and racism.
Mike Brown’s untimely and cruel death sparked outrage, clearly. Shortly after his death, a silent protest was held in Ferguson. But that was quickly shut down by…? You guessed it: the police. Protesters were assaulted with tear gas, and the SWAT team was also called in.
“Why would they do that? It was a silent and peaceful protest,” you ask. Well, you see, children, the police officer responsible was justified for killing Mike Brown because he was a “thug.” So, since the protestors were defending Brown instead of the police, they might also have been labelled “thugs.” But we (the police) can’t kill any more POC; we’ve, for some reason, caused outrage with an unjustifiable murder. So we will silence them with fear.
Living in a police state is horrifying. Fear is a means to keep the people obedient. But we should not sit back so idly. Protests have been spawned, not just in Ferguson, but also in New York and D.C., with protesters of all colors marching for justice, holding signs that say, “Don’t Shoot,” or just holding their hands up peacefully, as Mike Brown did. They can’t arrest us all.
The media will silence our words, and the police will silence our freedom. But when we, as a society, let injustice reign, we’ve given up our humanity, our compassion. Is there none left? I, as a white, middle-class male, apologize for the injustice that POC face, past and present. I apologize for any special privilege I receive because I am white. I apologize that people like Joan Rivers, who spoke about the positive aspects of genocide, are praised after death simply because they were famous and white. (A slightly unrelated thought: death should not be glorified in any manner.)
History has repeated itself with the Ferguson shooting and protests. POC are being targeted simply due to the color of their skin. And then, when people got upset about it, they were shut down and assaulted. Is this the world we want to live in? ’Cause right now, it’s a white man’s world. “Land of the free?” Don’t even get me started.