The Zebra in the Room

Angie Matarozzi

Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed on August 9 by a police officer in Ferguson Mo. A St. Louis grand jury announced on November 24 that Darren Wilson, the police officer in question, would not be indicted.

Those are the basic facts. The rest?

Well, the rest is a blur. 

Riots in the streets. Looting. Fires. More deaths. More violence. Days of protests and demonstrations ensued. Another black youth killed in the streets at the hands of American law enforcement. Another polarizing event in American society.

Unless you are opinion-less or unaware of the story of Michael Brown, you probably came across an opinion regarding the grand jury’s decision that you not only heavily disagreed with but that made you extremely angry.

Take a look at the following myriad of opinions stated verbatim about the Michael Brown case:

“Race is not a factor in the Ferguson case.”

“There is no such thing as white privilege. Black people do have opportunities. They get scholarships just for being black.”

“If racism is something you’re sick of hearing about, imagine how exhausting it must be living it everyday”

“White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.” 

That’s a small sample size but it’s likely that you took issue with at least one of those statements. It’s likely that in the past few days, you either went on a Twitter rant or got in an argument with someone surrounding this highly contentious topic. You may have even ruined Thanksgiving dinner by getting in a fight with a relative about Brown.

While oftentimes productive, it is also true that some of the discussion and anger surrounding Ferguson has muddled the important takeaways from this American tragedy.

So here a few major things to remember.  

First, “the truth” in this case along with the verdict are questionable no matter what stance you take on the matter. Witnesses reported different things, meaning there isn’t a clear consensus on what happened. Although a dead body speaks volumes of truth, we should also tread carefully in immediately rejecting or accepting the Grand Jury’s decision.

Second, it is hard to talk about Ferguson without talking about race. 

No, it’s impossible. 

To ignore that fact completely is to fall short of a meaningful discussion surrounding Michael Brown’s death.

Last, this situation is not just about the martyrdom of Michael Brown. It is a larger, systemic issue that hits on race and our criminal justice system.

And people are fed up with a justice system that has repeatedly failed to stand in solidarity with the black man.

For those of you beginning to disagree, momentarily take away the black man in the previous statement.

Ask yourself, what kind of country do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a country where an unarmed youth can get shot in the head by an officer of the law?

 Regardless of where you stand. Michael Brown’s name will be added to a long list of black men who have died violently and unjustly by “peacekeepers” or “protectors” of the people. 

Trayvon Martin. Oscar Grant. Eric Gardner. Abner Louima. Amadou Diallo. 

Coincidence? You can put the pieces together for yourself.

And yes, innocent white people get shot too. This merely fuels the point that there is a problem with our so called “peacekeeping” and law “enforcement” system. 

If you take away nothing from this editorial, remember this: an unarmed black male lay dead on the street for four hours.

Now ask yourself, has justice been served?