Two years, it would be pretty safe to say that most of America had never heard of Ferguson, Missouri.
But on August 9, 2014, that little Midwest town outside of St. Louis, became a permanent fixture in our nation’s vernacular when unarmed teenager Mike Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Sadly, Brown’s life was devalued not only on the street as he laid dead for four and half hours, but also among our justice system when a grand jury refused to indict Wilson for murder.
Yes, there was no justice, but that doesn’t mean Brown’s tragic death was in vain.
And like Traybon Martin, Brown woke up Black America. It morphed the phrase “Black Lives Matter” from beyond a popular and empowering hashtag into a bonafide and influential movement. A movement that refuses to be quiet about the injustices that Black and Latino people endure by the hands of systematic racism and police brutality. A movement that mobilized African-Americans and our allies from all walks of life, to take to the streets, create real change and even use that power to shift the political discourse in this upcoming presidential election.
Just think: The phrase “Black Lives Matter” would never have been chanted at the Democratic National Convention last month, without Mike Brown. And so like Emmet Till was the Civil Rights Movement, Brown is to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“If Mike wasn’t killed and people weren’t directly impacted, if we didn’t leave our homes, I don’t know where or what movement I would (have been in) two years ago,” said Johnetta Elzie, a Ferguson protester and prominent BLM leader recently told USA Today. And without his death, the 27-year-old admitted that “I probably wouldn’t be as involved as I am now.”
Here we are, two years later and it’s even more clear that this movement and its message are desperately needed. From Freddie Gray to Sandra Bland to Philando Castile to Korryn Gaines to Tamir Rice to Rekia Boyd, not a month has gone by since Brown’s death that we haven’t heard news that another person of color’s life was cut short by the hands of the police or state violence.
And while we know that our lives have real value, when will White America understand that? When will police stop automatically perceiving us as criminals? Why must we be an “angel” in order to be considered a victim? When will the police use the same de-escalation techniques on us that they use on white people? Why does our justice refuse to indict or convict police who murder us? Most important, seeing everything that we’ve seen and knowing what we know, why are folks still in such utter denial about racism in America?
Better yet: Why is it still so hard to stop killing us?
A lot of questions, so little answers, yet so many sobering lessons we’ve learned in the past couple of years.
Rest In Power Michael Brown.
BEAUTIES, what has Mike Brown’s death taught you?
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#MikeBrownTaughtMe: What Has America Really Learned Since His Death? was originally published on hellobeautiful.com