Our featured artist Jamaal St. John speaks out on Ferguson and more…
It is too easy to turn away and pretend we didn’t see anything. Didn’t see another unarmed black teenager gunned down in cold blood by a white police officer whose sworn duty it was to serve and protect him and those like him who lived in the community of Ferguson, MO. Didn’t see his lifeless body left in the street for 4 1/2 hours. Didn’t see another black teenager become a statistic. Didn’t see another set of black parents having to bury one of their children. Didn’t see their pain, their tears. Didn’t see a damn thing, much in the same way that that viewing America through an illusory post racial lens, allows certain white people to not see color, to not see race at all. I know that they say justice is blind, but it is only as blind as those in charge of administering it. And yet, when you read various message boards, tweets, & Facebook posts involving Ferguson, it becomes clear that it isn’t that people don’t see race, but that race is all they see. As in race put before human being, put before son, put before citizen, put before possible future.
This has become an all too familiar narrative for black people in this country. Sean Bell. Amadou Diallo. Timothy Stansbury. Patrick Dorismond. Tamir Rice. John Crawford III. Michael Brown. Abner Louima. Rodney King. Ezell Ford. Oscar Grant. Hell, it’s been 2 1/2 years since Bronx resident Ramarley Graham was shot and killed in his home in front of his 6 year old brother and grandmother by an NYPD cop named Richard Haste, who along with other officers barged in without a search warrant. Haste plead not guilty to manslaughter, only to then have the case against him thrown out on a technicality, and then the case was taken to another grand jury, where they declined to indict him. That was over a year ago & still no word on further prosecution, which also means another black family denied any semblance of justice for their murdered son. Remember Marlene Pinnock? She was the black woman who was videotaped being pummeled on the side of a highway by a California Highway Patrolman, whose superiors took no disciplinary action against until the video clip hit YouTube and went viral. And now, we just learned that NYPD officers involved in the death of Eric Garner were not indicted. Or how about Ersula Ore, the Arizona State University Professor who has harassed, threatened, and arrested by a campus police officer, and in defending herself, was subsequently charged with obstructing a public thoroughfare, failing to provide identification and aggravated assault. She ended up pleading guilty to resisting arrest and those other charges were dropped, but I think you get my point: as long as the black body continues to be criminalized, any assaults or murders committed against it, as well as any attempts at obtaining justice for it, will continue to be trivialized.
During his press conference regarding the state’s decision to not seek an indictment against, Darren Wilson, Prosecuting Attorney Bob McColluch stated that the citizens of Ferguson should understand that the grand jurors “put their lives on hold and gave up their lives” in the course of doing their civic duty. Gave up their lives? Because they were apparently supposed to be finished reviewing all the evidence in September and it ended up taking until November?! So they lost 3 months of their lives and that is somehow equal to the pain and anguish of a family whose son had his life taken from him?! Then, just to add insult to injury, Darren Wilson decided to resign from the police force, calling it “the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.” Oh really? Harder than having to bury your 18 year old son after he was murdered?!
Look, I’m not trying to say that Cops don’t have a tough job or that all of them are crooked. What I’m saying is that all of them are HUMAN, which means that, just like any other person, they make their decisions based on their personal beliefs, experiences, and BIASES. So there is a distinct possibility that race has a little more than something to do with the rash of killings involving unarmed black people at the hands white police officers. I know you’d rather not see any of this, but don’t avert your eyes. Take a good look. Because there are none so blind as those who REFUSE TO SEE and we have grown tired of our humanity, our suffering, and our very existence being rendered invisible. In order to treat us properly, you must first see us properly. Stop opening fire. Start opening your eyes. I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders black people. I have a right to be angry.#BlackPoetsSpeakOut#Jamaal St. John 12/05/14