This week marks the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown. The recent graduate was walking down the street when he encountered former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Three minutes later he was dead. Within hours of his death the first protests formed on the very street he was shot on. The protests have not stopped since.
Nor have the deaths of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of the state. The last year has seen the largest number of people killed by police, even as the nation has paid more attention to the issue, and the calls for action have been the loudest in decades. For anyone passing through America’s race problems unaware, this year provides an answer to a question that floated gently over America on the night of Obama’s first election–is racism over?–with an emphatic no.
From streets echoing with cries for justice to politricks and cable news echoing with old school racism, this past year has served to shake the sleepy giant of the American masses from their slumber and awaken it from its dream of racial harmony. Americans wake to find some of we the people are suffering the outrageous slings and arrows of white supremacy. They wake to see young leaders of the new civil rights movement taking up the arms of protest against a sea of troubles.
Even as republican presidential candidates bemoan the rise of political correctness, we sail past the tipping point, unlikely to make a full return to times when it is acceptable–and sometime good fun, wink, wink–to disparage blacks openly in the media. Significant because behind the battle over the words we use floats the scepter of power, hanging in the balance as the country moves towards a majority minority population. Make no mistake, this new world we find ourself in is not the promised land, but the wide murky territory between what we used to be and what we ought to be, a land full of deadly mines, traps and open warfare.
Being awake this year has been difficult at some times, soul-crushing others. Bearing witness and speaking truth and two heavy burdens born by the conscious. It does not alway feel good to be awake, but to close your eyes to the reality of the world you pass through isn’t really living. To ignore the oppression of the people of your own nation stands as treason to the dream of a people created equal. So stay up, and pay tribute to the life of Michael Brown with eyes that stay open.