It is ironic. I am currently reading THE OTHER WES MOORE for school. In a nutshell, the book is about two African American men named Wes Moore who lived blocks from each other. One went on to have a successful career and family life, and the other went on to a life of crime that ultimately ended him up in prison. The moral of the story is you can have two guys with the same name from the same place, yet something simple can cause their lives to diverge and go a different direction.
It is ironic that I am reading this book because today I am thinking about a young man named Michael Brown whose life has ended as a result of a police officer shooting him multiple times and in my family, we have a Michael Brown too. He is my stepson, but I never fear for his life the way I do for my son. Not because I love my son more, but because unlike my stepson, my son has brown skin. My stepson is white, and not once in his life have I worried about him getting shot by the convenience store clerk because he was sagging his pants or looking “angry.” Not once have I worried that a routine traffic stop could result in my white stepson being falsely arrested, or worse, shot dead with little or no regard. Not once have I said to my white son, “Smile. Don’t be mean-mugging. Let people know you aren’t a threat.” Not once.
The media has decided to focus on the looting and violence that took place after the murder of Michael Brown. Two issues that need to be kept separate. The looters need to be dealt with according to the letter of the law. But the murder of Michael Brown needs to be dealt with separate and apart from this looting and violence, because when we try and connect the two, the message is clear. “See, those folks are nothing but criminals and thugs. THEY don’t deserve justice.” That is the message that is being sent and that is the message that is being heard and regurgitated by so many. If the looters burn down the entire city, that doesn’t change the fact that a mother and father lost their child.
My students and I will be talking about this issue. My students are mainly white, but they need to know that this issue is not a black/brown issue. This issue is OUR issue and it will take ALL of us to reach a solution. This issue of police brutality and disregard for certain segments of the population has to be addressed as an issue that is important for ALL citizens of this country.