I was listening to John Walsh, the man whose son was murdered years ago and who has hosted television programs concentrating on “getting the bad guy,” including “America’s Most Wanted,” and now, on CNN, “The Hunt.”
Because of the pain he suffered as a parent of a murdered child, Walsh’s quest to “get the bad guy” is a passion. He has lived and tasted pain; he has lived through and tasted the justice system. His six-year-old son, Adam, was abducted from his home in 1981 and was later found murdered. Though authorities determined that Adam’s murderer was a man named Ottis Toole, for Walsh there was no justice; Toole was never charged with the crime and he died while in prison serving time for other crimes.
The lack of justice left a bitter taste in Walsh’s mouth and spirit, which it should. He is a parent and he has suffered the most grievous loss any parent could endure.
In his program Saturday evening, he talked about how the parents of the case that was being featured feel. They want justice, Walsh said. They want the killer of their child to be brought to justice. And …they want that though their child has been dead for some 20 years.
A parent’s need for justice is palpable …and it doesn’t diminish with time.
So, why is it that American society, including and most especially the justice system, cannot seem to appreciate or respect the need for African-American parents to want justice in the deaths of their children?
Much is made about black-on-black crime, but the truth is, when it is known who has shot and killed another person in the black community, that person is more often than not made to pay for his/her offense immediately. Those persons are likely thrown into jail as soon as they are caught; they have trials, they are convicted and are put away for a long time, if not sentenced to death.
But in the case of black people being shot by police officers or white vigilantes, it seems that justice seldom comes. It happens far too often that the victim is blamed for having been shot, and the perpetrator goes free. In the instances where the Justice Department gets into the fray and investigates the cases, the product of their investigation is a long time coming.
And so the parents of these young people are left to deal not only with their grief, but also with the lack of justice for their loved one. It makes them angry. John Walsh in fact said that: that parents of murdered loved ones get angry when the alleged killer is not held accountable.
The alleged killer of Mike Brown is still being protected; it is not at all a sure thing that Police Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted, or, if he goes to trial, that he will be convicted. The whole Brown situation has caused a seething rage to continue to bubble in the spirit of the black community. From the way Brown was allegedly shot, to the fact that he was left lying in the street for four hours after being killed, to the fact that his alleged involvement in a crime before the shooting was released BEFORE the name of the police officer was released ..and that only after a week of not getting the officer’s identification released…has contributed to the long-held belief of black people that for us, there is no justice …and it causes deep anger.
If Brown were the only unarmed person killed by a white police officer or vigilante or security guard, the pain would not be so great; the rage would not be boiling, as it is, like lava in an active volcano. No, Brown is only one of a long list of people who have been killed in this way, with their killers being set free.
Remarley Graham was murdered in his home two years ago by police, but his family still does not know what happened to him and the officers in the case have not been indicted. We all know that George Zimmerman was let go; Mark O’Meara was able to convince the jury that Martin’s death was his own doing, in spite of what, to parents and many observers, seemed to be compelling evidence that Zimmerman was out of line in following the unarmed teen and confronting him, probably scaring him to death. The police officer-killer of John Crawford III, unarmed and shot in a Wal-Mart store in Beavercreek, Ohio, is back on his job even while his family has been fighting to get details of all that happened. The police officers in Staten Island, New York, who participated in the apprehension of Eric Garner, an unarmed man, will face a Grand Jury this month – but many in the black community are holding their breath, because even though Garner’s death has been ruled a homicide, resulting from a choke-hold in which he was placed, it is not at all a sure thing that these officers will be brought to justice.
For black people, more specifically for black parents, who hurt as much as any white parent of a murdered child, there is all too frequently…no justice.
Even in the case of Emmett Till, killed in 1955, there was no justice, His killers had a trial, yes, but they were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury, in just 67 minutes. The two killers, Roy Bryant and A.W. Milam, later gave a full, arrogant confession to the murder of Till to Look Magazine.
Imagine the pain of Mamie TIll, Emmett’s mother.
Imagine the pain of the parents and loved ones of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Remarley Graham, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, John Crawford III, Eric Garner …most recently killed. There either has been no justice, in the cases where trials have been carried out, or there is anticipation and anxiety in the cases where “what to do” with the police officers who did the killings.
Walsh talked about the pain of parents whose child has been murdered. That is true.
But the pain is not limited to white parents, John Walsh. Black parents are human beings, too. They love their children …too. And they want justice for their children…too.
White America seems not to understand that. Maybe they don’t believe that black parents have feelings at all. People, many black and too many white, do believe that if a black person is shot by a police officer, he or she deserved it.
It’s a convenient way for police to get away with murder…and the reason so many black parents are nursing a grief complicated by an unjust justice system.
It makes them angry. Whenever a killer is not held accountable for his/her actions…those left behind …get angry.
You said it, John Walsh.
A candid observation …