Accepting The Unacceptable: Another Black Kid Shot
I knew the story before I even read it. I saw a brief headline that a friend posted on social media. It didn’t give much information as to what happened, but I already knew. After taking the time to read about it, I confirmed what I already knew. The police had shot another unarmed black kid. Michael Brown, shot six times, left for dead in the street of Ferguson, Missouri, USA. The cop who shot the kid is not in prison, but instead on paid leave. People are protesting in the streets, and the police are armed with military weaponry becoming more and more hostile towards citizens. It’s both scary and sad that I didn’t even have to read the article or give it much attention at all before essentially already knowing the entire story. It’s because I’ve been hearing the same story my entire life. Nothing about it ever changes except for the people’s names. The fact that this has happened so often for so long that it has become a predictable occurrence is unacceptable, but somehow the unacceptable has become acceptable. I was left wondering how that came to be, and what we could do to change it.
In 2012 a neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed 17 year old black kid named Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges. In 1999 four NYC cops fired 41 shots at an unarmed 23 year old black kid named Amadou Diallo. 19 of the shots hit Diallo killing him. All four officers were acquitted of all charges. In 1992, Los Angeles police were involved in a high speed car chase with an unarmed black man named Rodney King. They eventually cornered his vehicle and several officers proceeded to beat the crap out of him. It was all caught on video. Four cops were charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and use of excessive force. All four were acquitted of all charges. The ruling sparked the now infamous LA riots which killed 53 people, and injured over 2,000. I was 10 years old at the time. Too young to fully understand the weight of what was happening, but I got the gist of it, and it was disturbing. Here I am 22 years later hearing pretty much the exact same story, feeling the exact same way.
This cycle has been allowed to continue for so long in large part because people feel helpless, and therefore we allow these atrocities to continue. People riot when they feel angered and outraged, but a lot of that anger and outrage comes from feeling helpless. People protest when they feel helpless too. They want things changed but they don’t know how to change them. People become numb and apathetic to ugly things through feeling helpless as well. You hear the same horrible story so many times throughout your life, and it never changes, so you start turning yourself off to it. You don’t want to be bothered by it. You know there’s nothing you can do to change it, so why bother yourself with it at all. I think that this feeling of helplessness has made us actually become helpless, and has made our society become stagnant. It has allowed history to repeat itself, and it has allowed the unacceptable to remain acceptable.
If we continue to allow the unacceptable to remain acceptable history will continue to repeat itself. In a couple months 99% of the people who are up in arms posting all over social media about Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson will no longer be paying much mind to it. The police officer who shot Michael Brown will probably never be punished, just like George Zimmerman, the cops who shot Amadou Diallo, and the cops who beat Rodney King. No laws will change. 99% of us will move on as if it never happened. That is until the next disturbing event comes along and knocks us out of our apathetic slumber. At which point we will once again make a few outraged social media posts before returning back to sleepwalking through our own lives. Do we really want to live like this in a helpless acceptance of the unacceptable? Can we survive this way forever? What if societies’ next target is you or someone you love?
There is a way we can make sure this never happens again. It lies in a different kind of revolution though. Not a political revolution, but a revolution of our minds. We have to change the way we think, and we have to change what we’re willing to live with. We as a people need to evolve. An unarmed teenager being shot and killed by the police in the streets of America is unacceptable. Cops having tanks is unacceptable. A cop firing tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters is unacceptable. Racism of any kind is unacceptable. We need to never lose this stance and this outrage. Our minds need to store it permanently. We need to not turn a blind eye to any of this until real changes have been made, laws have been adjusted, and it is clear that we will no longer accept the unacceptable. Whether it is two months from now, two years from now, or twenty years from now, we need to not return to posting pictures of food on Facebook and Instagram, and going to work each day, until we make sure there will be no next time. We need to always remember Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, and police with tanks in full army gear attacking U.S. citizens. If we change how we think about these things, and what we’re willing to live with, that will in turn change our society. If we refuse to continue to live this way then we no longer will. As John Lennon famously said, “War is over, if you want it.” It’s a lesson you can apply to any man-made ugliness in the world. I don’t want to be here 22 years from now writing about another dead innocent unarmed black kid shot by police officers. I know you don’t want to either. Let’s evolve.