As I stood in the yard of my college campus, I contemplated how anyone could get away with murdering someone in broad daylight and multiple witnesses. There are many different thoughts that go through my head as I contemplate the Grand Jury’s decision to let Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, go free shooting and killing an 18-year-old boy in the streets.
When I first heard about the case, my initial thought was that Michael Brown and I were the same age. Just like I had in the year, he had passed the milestone of turning eighteen years of age, graduation high school and was now entered into a new stage in his life. Not to say that I was particularly attached to Mike Brown in any particular way other than the color of our skin, it was just that he could have been anyone. It could just have easily been my brother who is only a year younger than me, he could have been a neighbor. It could have been a young black man in Louisiana or New York City. It could have been me. I really wished that this was an isolated incident, but the truth is it isn’t. This has happened many times before, it is happening, and will probably continue to happen. Who knows who it will be next.
Turning to Darren Wilson, it is unlikely that his troubles will end here. I have to say that I don’t have any feelings to ward he police officer besides a slow burning anger in the pit of my stomach. My moderate Christian upbringing has taught me that I should never wish ill of anyone, but in this case, I honestly wish the worst for Wilson and anyone who thinks and will get away with harming the life of anyone who wears an arbitrary sign on their back that says “you can target me and get away with it.” My mother once informed me of a black man working at a juvenile corrections facility who was suspended for four months for calling a white boy a snitch.
When I was younger I was taught that everyone’s life matters. Even if they had done something wrong, they would never stop being a person. Their life would still valuable up until the point that they had a fair trial. Along with this I was taught the importance of black lives. I was taught to hold my brown skin in the highest regard as something of a gift that a higher power had given me. My dad would explain to me what he knew about our family history along with the history of ancient Africans. From an early age I was taught the symbolism of the Pan-African Flag: green for the land, black for the people, and red for the blood. Pan-Africanism is the solidarity between all peoples of African descent, especially those connected in the African Diaspora. To me that meant that being of African descent meant more than sharing a skin color. It meant sharing a history, culture, and a hope. It meant that even though not everyone has their rightful land, home, or rights, there is still a hope in the coming together of people in solidarity. That is why the Michael Brown case is so important to me. I believe black lives matter because my life matters along with the people who I share a homeland, a skin color, and blood.
For me there is also this constant shifting in my mind between fight or flight. Should I attempt to emigrate in hopes of joining a country in which I feel that I am accepted and welcome, or should I stay and fight for my rights and the rights of my people to exist without being persecuted without much of an acknowledgment by the general population that it is happening. Is it acceptable for an entire population to grow up being taught that they need to dress and act in a certain way so they have hopes of not being targeted and tried in a system that works against them? Is there even hope for the next generation to grow up in a space that allows them to thrive?
In hindsight, the easier thing to do would be to flee. That is not what I’m going to do right now. This is not what most black people in the US will do. My hope is that the fight will go on for as long as it takes, so that there will be justice not just for Mike Brown, but for everyone. While I am in the United States, I don’t feel very American. Not just tonight, but most nights. I think that’s very true for many people. I suppose that’s the reason why a Pan-African flag hangs in my father’s house, why my parents named me “Nia” instead of something more white or American. I think that’s why there is such an outrage over this decision and over this case. The line between African-American and American has not drawn closer, but instead is further apart.