Johnny Robinson, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, and now Michael Brown. Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the monumental legislation intended to outlaw discrimination and segregation based on race, America has yet to live up to its promises. Fifty years later, race can and will be used against a black man walking the streets of his own country. Fifty years later, the black experience of two seemingly different generations are beyond paralleled and are indeed associated by more than genealogy.
In reality, our America has not changed. The tokenism Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke about still exists today, with new faces and names. It has pacified some and driven others to declare our nation as a post-racial society where instances like the numerous killings of young black men are only coincidental or due to the black man’s affinity for criminal activity.
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old soon-to-be college student, was shot six times and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. After a peaceful candlelight vigil in his honor, protests and riots ensued. For nearly two weeks after Brown’s death, protesters and journalists were met with hyper-militarized police officers who used tear gas and rubber bullets to hinder their constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.
Police brutality continues to steal security, peace of mind, and lives from the black community, oftentimes without penalty or even recognition of oppression. After continuous inaction from political and law enforcement entities, grief, frustration, and desperation, worsen exponentially until the boiling point is fiercely met, resulting in a reactive rather than proactive response from the nation’s leaders.
They prevail because historical civil rights legislation, progressive laws, social welfare programs, expansion of a black middle class, and even electing a black president do not directly address the ideology and system of racism, which foster an America that allows white police officers to use deadly force against black people two times per week. These tokens, while necessary, are only battling the offspring rather than proactively fighting the war against America’s founding father—racism. Black lives will forever be disposable, and police brutality and the riots that will inevitably result will persist until this country, and all of its citizens, candidly address and take intentional, proactive, and permanent action against this intractable, curable, ailment.