Since the violent death of Travon Martin in Sanford, Florida, last year, I have been refraining myself from becoming too opinionated on issues of race relations in America. Many readers did not seem quite happy with what they called “my unexplained silence.” I have received several messages, requesting my opinion on the many subsequent social injustices perpetuated against minorities following the Travon’s case. Although the requests were valued with all fairness, they seemed to resonate more like a desperate search for a socio-political healing, an intellectual heirloom found in me, but quintessential to gaining that peace of mind when the very basic essence of life appears hostile everywhere.
My new attitude was in no way a self-defeating/existential reality; nor was it an affirmation of self-defeat. It was rather the capture or recapture of a paradigm shift in my frame of thought. When Travon was assassinated, I thought then the horror of the crime and the uproarious backlash that it created were just sufficed to temper the heads with the dangerous eyes that never cease to use pigmentation as a means to subjugate the vulnerable.
For a while, I felt quite at ease with my newfound psychological comfort despite the many high profile crimes committed against minorities, until the officials in Ferguson, Missouri, proved me wrong—BIG TIME. There’s no need to reiterate the ugly narrative that took place there last month, for it only brings shockwaves to our hearts each time it is being repeated. What struck me was the raw treatment offered to the victim and his family.
At first, they tried to whiten to crime by placing the all-too-familiar blame on Michael Brown, saying he was resisting arrest. When that ploy failed to temper a population in rage, they changed tactic, using the presumption of innocence and the power of a Grand Jury to “legally” exonerate the cop who committed the murder.
The most shocking element in this sad story is the authorities ‘complete nonchalance vis-à-vis the indignation of an entire population yearning for justice. Yesterday afternoon in New York, it was déjà vu all over again. Another Grand Jury exonerated the cop who killed Eric Garner, the innocent man who fought for his life and his right to sell cigarette on a New York City sidewalk. Although they say Ferguson is not New York, it’s hard to imagine how anyone can separate these two facts. The actors may be different, but the story line is indisputably the same: White police officers killing young defenseless black men.
Tonight, the rage is across the country, but there is an element that I’d like to point out. As a community, we don’t want to be self-destructed. I know there are serious causes to be upset, but nothing justified the looting and the destroying of our own minority businesses in Ferguson last week. It didn’t move our cause one bit. If anything, it sent the wrong message; that we are not a responsible people. Proactive, constructive and responsible actions will ultimately bring justice to bear, as it were the case for Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo in New York.
President Obama announced a Federal inquiry and launched an appeal for calm as his government works to repair mistrust between “our communities and our law enforcements.” Few believe this, for by now everyone understands the Obama presidency was never a victory over racism and xenophobia in America.
There’s also something else we now know: We can ill afford to retire “We shall overcome,” the legendary song that marked the civil right movement. In the fight for racial equality in this country, it is not just enough to be consistent; we need to be proactive. Complacency and denial in the hope it will not happen to my son or daughter will only prolong an already exacerbated situation.
Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is the Chief Editor for CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of North Florida. He may be reached at email@example.com He is also a critically acclaimed novelist. His latest novel Midnight at Noon can be purchased everywhere. Click on this link to order a copy: Midnight at Noon