Black Lives Matter.
Doesn’t every life matter?
The recent excessive police shootings and brutality toward African-Americans has sparked much debate, protest and conflict within our society. All lives matter, of course, but it is currently the focus on those of African-Americans that is making headlines.
Which draws many to ask ‘What is it like to be African-American in times like these?’
I believe I speak for many when I say that it has never been an easy road being one of color. Although I have been immensely fortunate to be spared the cruelties that many of my race have begun to and continue to endure, I know enough to be more than aware of the challenges that come with being black.
MHS Security Guard Bobby Gray cited the American Law system as a major component in the continuing racism that is present in society, saying that the system “[is] set up in a way that [is not] equal for people of color.”
Recently, the Chicago Police Department has been under much scrutiny after the delayed release of a video in which a Caucasian police officer shoots and kills an African-American teen. In the video, the officer steps out of his car to approach the teen, who allegedly is armed with a knife, and fires at him. Even after the teen falls to the ground, posing no further threat to the officer and those accompanying him, the officer fires again. And again. A later autopsy concluded that the teen had been shot sixteen times.
Protesters have flooded Chicago since Thanksgiving Day weekend, responding to the release of this video. Beside the initial disgust at the amount of bullets fired unnecessarily, the unrest is furthered by the fact that this tragedy was shielded from the public for quite some time and the police officer given no consequences.
In no way is that justice.
As much as we would like to deny it, the results would have been much different if the teen were white and the police officer black. Actions would have been taken much sooner and the video released to the public in a more timely manner.
As an African-American, situations such as this only intensify the feeling that we have not completely forgotten our past. While the U.S. has come a significant way in their acceptance of those of color, there are still signs of racial tension and inequality present. Blacks struggle to get justice for those, such as teen Laquan McDonald, who are treated unjustly, consequently increasing hostility among blacks and their counterparts.
MHS alum and substitute teacher Jenelle Herry (‘09) “wholeheartedly” agrees that there is still an issue of racism present in society.
“The fact that we refuse as a nation to address it just makes it worse,” she said. “You can’t just ignore things and hope [it] gets better.”
With this in mind, I feel that the protesting in Chicago is entirely reasonable. The more we ‘look the other way’ or deny that there is a problem, the more we allow injustices to happen. Although I may not be a direct victim of these injustices, as a member of the African-American community, they do affect me. If injustice can happen in Chicago, it undeniably can occur anywhere. No state, city or town is exempt.
I believe that by bringing attention to instances where inequality is present and engaging in civil actions to bring about change, there can be a remedy. If blacks took a more active role in their community, it is likely that we could ensure that we are represented and our presence known. Attending community meetings to stay informed on local events and legal changes is one step in that direction. We can hold our local officials accountable and know where we stand if we make an effort to be knowledgeable of the things which affect us.
While it may be more likely than not that racism and acts of injustice will continue, I feel that through consistent action and involvement there is hope.