"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~Toni Morrison

Monday, December 8, 2014

Writercize: Human Lives Matter

The Prompt:
Write a column (opinion piece) that gets to the heart of how recent news stories about the justice system's response (or: the politicians' response, the police response, the media response, the public response) to Eric Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson and Trayvon Martin have impacted your world view.
My Response:
On the night of the Grand Jury decision in the police-shooting of Michael Brown, I, like many others around the country, watched the live coverage of Ferguson, Missouri.  I was disappointed to see news reporters circling like vultures, police dressed in full riot gear ready for a fight that had not yet begun.  I hoped beyond hope that the people of Ferguson would not live up to their expectations. I hoped beyond hope that the whole country would end up watching live coverage of a peaceful demonstration.  I hoped beyond hope that the pleas of both President Obama and the Brown family would be honored.

Was I sad when the night did not go as I had hoped?  Of course.  Every fire that was lit, every store that was looted, every person hit with tear gas made me more and more sad.  But it also made me realize that I can never fully understand the anger/fear/distrust/sadness/ disappointment that the protesters in Ferguson felt.  

I am a white American.  I am an Irish-American.  Although I am an immigrant, I have never been singled out.  I am sheltered in my whiteness. I do not fear driving at night, walking down a street, wearing a hoodie, reaching for my cell-phone. I do not fear.

When the Grand Jury in the murder of Eric Garner decided not to indict the responsible officer, even with video evidence, an illegal chokehold, the cries "I can't breathe," I was devastated.  Here was more evidence that black lives do not matter in the eyes of our justice system.  How could that be true?  How could someone's life not matter?  How could we all continue on with our lives as if nothing had happened?

This morning, on NPR, I heard about President Obama and Attorney General Holder and their new guidelines for law enforcement.  I wanted to scream!  Really?  It is 2014, and our government is telling law enforcement that they can't pull someone over just because of their race or religious affiliation?  Really?  Is it naive of me that I thought these types of guidelines were already in place?  Even more disappointing, the guidelines do not apply in airports or at the border!

I feel so helpless.  When did we, as a society, forget that all human lives matter?  That you can't judge someone's beliefs or background just by looking at them?  How can I possibly make a difference?  How can I possibly change this situation?  What can I possibly do to help?

Thank you, Alana of Writercize, for the prompt and motivation.  I needed to put this in words.


  1. Three cheers for doing the prompt and for sharing your response! Somehow, even though the story is everywhere, there is something a little bit healing (and freeing) to enter the dialogue yourself, isn't there?

    I think that your note about Ferguson police ramping up "ready for a fight that had not yet begun" is especially telling and profound.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. I agree. There is something healing in writing about it.