I’ve let the smart people lead the discussions the last couple of weeks amid the racial tension in the aftermath of the Eric Garner and Mike Brown grand jury decisions. But in that time, I’ve also heard a lot of ignorance, too.
Before I continue, let me say that I, too, am ignorant. I have not investigated these cases almost at all. Pretty much everything I know is from what I’ve heard or read on the news.
But I have listened to what people are saying. And it’s led me to two conclusions.
On one side, there’s those who say this should never have become a racial issue. Some blame the media for painting it as such, and argue that Mike Brown and Eric Garner did not die because they were black, but because they broke the law, and then exacerbated it by resisting arrest.
But what these people are failing to understand is that protesters are not viewing these two deaths as isolated incidents. Yes, they are the impetus for the protests, and the spark that brought people together, but it’s become pretty apparent at this point that what people are demonstrating against is something greater.
It’s an endemic that many perceive has existed for years: white cops have treated black people differently than white people. As a white male whose only rendezvous with police was being pulled over for speeding last year (by a white cop, might I add), I obviously cannot attest to this. But after seeing how strongly people are reacting, I can’t help but believe them.
Any one who doesn’t believe this is a racial issue is kidding themselves. It’s been a racial issue for not only two weeks, but for years, decades.
Now that is one side of the coin. The other is the people who are passionately calling for change — white or black. A popular cry is that this is simply another instance in a long trend of missteps by the American justice system, and that nothing will ever change.
I disagree with the latter. I firmly believe that we will see a change, regardless of the grand jury decisions.
The response — the national outrage, the protests, demonstrations, the professional athletes showcasing their opinions on public platforms — will have an impact.
I’m not saying it will be immediate. But I believe that voices have been heard. I think, because of what’s happened, white police officers will severely change their behavior towards black people. No cop wants to be the next Darren Wilson. No cop wants to be caught on camera choking a man to death.
And I think next time there’s a similar decision in the hands of a grand jury, they’ll think extra hard about the consequences of what they’re deciding. Is it the change people want? Maybe not. But it’s progress.
Social consciousness has become more heightened on a national level because of recent events. And I think that’s a success. Outside of the first few days in Ferguson, the protests, for the most part, have been civil. And because of it, I foresee change.
What’s happening now is not quite on the level of the civil rights marches in Selma 50 years ago, but it’s significant, all right.