This column is part of a four-column series written by Yale students regarding the Mike Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri. Click here to return to the series’ Up for Discussion landing page.
The post here reflects the version of this column that ran in print on Dec. 1.
“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for [some.]”
I salute the flag of a nation that will allow a man to murder a boy in broad daylight, leave his body lying in the street for four and a half hours, and go on paid vacation until a grand jury ultimately decides not to even arrest him. The murder caused enough pain. But a biased grand jury, combined with the purposeful ineptitude by the prosecuting attorney and the irresponsible media, added insult to injury.
I have a brother. I have a brother with skin so many shades darker than my own that most people don’t believe we are related. He’s 13, which means he’s going through his “I’m-too-cool-for-everything” stage. I have a black teenage brother, which means that he is one run-in with the cops away from being a hashtag and I from being the grieving family member pleading with the justice system to do their job. So when I see young boys like Michael Brown being demonized in the media to excuse police officers like Darren Wilson, my heart breaks because I have a brother and it could very much be him.
Preparing young boys for racial profiling and prospective police brutality is unfortunately an important facet of black life in America.
Question: What do you do if a police officer stops you?
Answer: Put my hands in plain sight. Make no sudden movements. Use ma’am and sir. Do not talk back or get angry — this will only be used against you. Be respectful. Always say you are on your way home (and mean it). Give them what they ask for. Do not resist arrest. Remain calm.
We are guilty until proven innocent and are constantly trying to remind America that black lives matter. But we are constantly presented with evidence to prove otherwise: Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown. We are at war with the conscience of America, a country where we can vote but might be killed by a police officer while we are unarmed.
Lyndon Johnson once said, “The next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights is … not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.”
My fight is not over, and until I can recite the Pledge of Allegiance without sarcasm, I will continue.
“Lift every voice and sing / ‘til Earth and heaven ring / ring with the harmonies of liberty.”
Brea Baker is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.