It’s finals week for me and I’m coming to the conclusion of my first semester as a seminary student. I’m currently in the midst of writing a paper about the Black Church’s response (or lack thereof) to police brutality in the Black community. Sadly, I’m coming to the conclusion that what has been happening to Black bodies is intentional and meant to send a clear message. What we have been seeing with the deaths, non-indictments, and lack of justice for Black people are modern-day lynchings. Historical sources, studies of the police and legal materials have shown that the police brutality takes place today in minority communities is sociologically and historically related to lynching. Historically speaking, lynchings were meant to send messages. These acts were far more than the murder of one Black person, they were a tool used to control the entire Black population. Lynchings were meant to maintain a social order, and to constantly remind Blacks that they would never have the freedom and equality that whites did. Lynchings weren’t about the victim being guilty or innocent, they were about turning the victim into a symbol that sent a message to the Black community. Seeing a Black person hanging from a tree, was a reminder to every Black person that no matter what they achieved, how polite they were, or how educated they were they would never be granted the same dignity and protection under the law as whites. The message that is being sent now through police brutality is the same message that was being sent through lynchings. The deaths of Blacks at the hands of the police and vigilantes like George Zimmerman, are not about whether their victims were guilty or innocent. If it were, they would have let it be handled by a court of law, which is where guilt and innocence is decided (or supposed to be) in this nation. These deaths were meant send a message to the Black community. No matter what you achieve, no matter how polite you are, not matter how educated you are, or how many times a Black man gets elected as President, you will never be granted the dignity and protection that whites have under the law. It’s just disheartening to see that even after all of the “progress” that’s been made with race relations in our country, that we’re still essentially fighting the same issues all over again.
How can anyone or any community heal and move forward unless they’re given the space and time to grieve? People always question why African-Americans still are “stuck” on race issues, without realizing that crying out about the very real injustices that our people have faced and continue to face, that protesting, rioting and boycotting are our ways of grieving. Grief is not a process that can be rushed through. It’s not something you can just “get over” and move on from like nothing happened. It’s a process that takes time to go through. It’s time that we stop trying to justify our griving process to those who’ve never been through the systematic and continuous pain that we’ve been through as a community. It’s time that we grieve how we need to, for as long as we need to, so we can heal as a community and find ways to move forward.
The Mike Brown verdict, tonight, was yet another slap in the face of a community brought to its knees with the lack of justice shown to those like Trayvon Martin, Michael Dunn, and Renisha McBride. So many people, especially young people like me, are furious. We’re frustrated with a nation that has told us our entire lives that things have changed drastically and we’re a post-racial society. We’ve been indoctrinated with lessons about Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, since Kindergarten, and assured that what happened in the 1960s ensured equality for everyone in our nation. We’ve been told that race doesn’t matter, and all we have to do is work hard and get an education and we too can grab a piece of the American dream. It’s not about color, it’s about character. All lies! Tonight was another reminder, that none of what we’ve been told is true. Things are starting to look more and more like the Jim Crow South and less like the post-racial utopia we’ve been told we’re living in.
Tonight was a reminder to every single one of us that color does matter and it matters as much as it did 50 years ago. Tonight showed us, without a shadow of a doubt, that if your skin is black you do not matter. You are not valued. It doesn’t matter whether you live or die and if you happen to die at the hands of a white police office, rest assured that justice will not be served. It’s an infuriating and agonizing reality to grapple with. It hurts and it is frustrating to not only know that black bodies are not valued in this nation, but to know that we were naive enough to believe that wasn’t the case. With that said, I can understand being enraged. As an African-American woman, I am enraged. I can understand wanted to protest and rally. I can even understand wanting to riot and loot. However, I don’t think that’s the answer. What’s the point of protesting, putting your body on the line, when the system doesn’t value black bodies in the first place? What’s the point of standing on the front lines, rioting, when those in power could care less whether your body lays in the street for 4 1/2 hours like Mike Brown’s body did? This is a system that doesn’t value black lives in any shape, form or fashion unless money can be made by commodifying us. This is a system that places high value on the almighty dollar and that is where our power lies. African-Americans have $1.1 trillion of spending power. $1.1 trillion. That is power and it’s a form of power that this system responds to. Our communities need to start boycotting and stop funding the very system that has shown time and time again that it doesn’t care about us. Let’s start boycotting as a people religiously and start with Black Friday. If this nation doesn’t value our precious lives, then surely they don’t need our precious dollars. There’s nothing wrong with protesting and praying, rallying and ranting, but let’s make sure we’re not standing in long lines giving our money and our power away on Friday either. #boycottblackfriday