Behold the innocent murdered …
I am involved in the work of SpiritHouse Project, which has been investigating cases of systemic violence against black people for some time now.
The names keep popping up: Trayvon Martin, Kendrick Johnson, Jonathan Ferrell …and now, a 19-year old black woman, Renisha McBride – young, innocent black people who have been gunned down or beaten to death, victims of systemic violence in this nation.
Why does it keep on happening? Why are the innocent continuously slaughtered – either by police or vigilantes – and so few people express outrage?
It is clear that nobody can fight injustice alone. No, there is needed a cadre of people with different skills and gifts and talents, in order to challenge “the system,” to shake it at its core. There is needed people who are in “the struggle” for the long haul, who are willing to do what it takes to make policy makers know that “we the people” are their bosses. “We the people” have power, the power, to change corrupt and/or apathetic governments and lawmakers.
We just don’t realize it.
Part of what made people aware of how despicable lynching was was the refusal of Emmett Till‘s mother, Mamie Tills, to let authorities sweep the issue under the rug. She made people see the face of her battered son, and people began to be moved. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, pushed the system, which did not want to finagle with a trial against George Zimmerman. The parents of Kendrick Johnson, along with supporters, have been sitting outside municipal offices in Valdosta, Georgia, pushing “the system” to listen to them. The United States Justice Department has decided to further investigate Johnson’s death.
In the work I am doing with SpiritHouse, I am talking with mothers and relatives of murdered young people, getting the facts and the stories, wiping away my own tears as I watch tears fall from the eyes of distressed parents. One woman, the mother of a young man slain in Florida, and left to die on the side of the road by law enforcement officers, says her own health has suffered as she pushes against “the system.” She has seizures now …and is sometimes hospitalized …but she will not give up.
What we don’t see ourselves, we distance ourselves from. But these murders, which have never stopped happening, seem to be getting more and more frequent. Is it really the case that a black person had better not knock on the door of a home if he/she needs help if that home happens to be in a white neighborhood? And will the justice system really keep jamming in the faces of “us” the people that certain people just do not matter?
I hope not. I hope there is justice in the case of Jonathan Ferrell, Kendrick Johnson, and now, Renisha McBride. I hope the families with which Ruby Sales and SpiritHouse Project and myself are working will get justice.
It is time. It is so time that America, which fights for human rights everywhere else, fights as hard for human rights right here on the mainland.
Behold the innocent, murdered. And God help us if we don’t push for justice. There but for the grace of God go ourselves, our children, our lives …
A candid observation …