I couldn’t sleep tonight. The ghosts of black men who have been murdered by police (or police-posers) were haunting me. So I took my grievances to twitter:
I’ve watched countless hours of footage, read hundreds of social media posts daily and I’ve come to the conclusion that to ask “Who killed Mike Brown?” is the wrong question. The question should be “What killed Mike Brown?”
Racism is a learned behavior. On the surface, the solution would be education. The problem with that solution is that the learned behavior is institutionalized. Whether we are talking about the disparities in the criminal justice system or the classroom, racism is alive and well in America. My fear about the situation in Ferguson, is that we are getting too wrapped up in the individual case. Of course Mike Brown’s murderer needs to be brought to justice, but IF and WHEN that happens, it is not a cause for celebration because the fight is not over. That is only the beginning! The best way that we can honor the life of Mike Brown is to prevent as many black men (and black women, and Latinos) from suffering the same fate. We need to attack WHAT killed Mike Brown, which was institutional racism. It is the same thing that killed Eric Gardner, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo and Fred Hampton. We cannot be nearsighted in our fight for justice, and we cannot be farsighted when we think of all of those who we’ve lost to this SOCIAL (e.g. FIXABLE) reality.
Institutional change requires a look at policy (laws), policy makers (the people who create the laws), public institutions (like schools), and protocol (the use of force, the investigation of complaints, etc). Institutional change rarely happens because of one case or event. It examines patterns and trends. It connects the dots. Institutional change would force us to connect Fred Hampton to Trayvon Martin to Renisha McBride to Eric Gardner. Institutional change does not just affect an individual family or community, it SHIFTS an entire state, an entire country, the entire world! Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 overturned Plessy vs. Ferguson from 1896. That institutional change took 58 years and even after the laws were enacted, it took another 3 or so years for institutions to actually obey the law (hence the Little Rock 9). Institutional change takes time and it includes the work of activists, attorneys, educators, journalists, artists – a cross-section of the community working together toward the same goal(s).
“Don’t shoot” looks really cute on a t-shirt, but we have to DIG in to the United States constitution, we have to be specific and articulate exactly what needs to change and we have to be consistent, persistent and RELENTLESS about changing WHAT killed Mike Brown… “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr.