No indictment. It’s barely been a week since we last heard those words. We first heard them when unarmed teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, who later received no criminal charges. We heard them again this week, after we found that another jury decided the police officer who killed Eric Garner would not be indicted for his actions.
I’m not only mad, but I am afraid. I’m lucky enough to live on the side that benefits from white privilege, the side that allows me to walk in front of police men without fearing that they will think I am dangerous, or that I am most likely up to no good. I am afraid for those who aren’t on this side, those who leave their homes every day, trying to become a better person, to disprove all of the stereotypes society has against them. How can our society expect someone to succeed if they continue to reinforce the negative stereotypes associated with an entire race?
The beauty of our society is that everyone is different. No two people are alike. There is crime and corruption at every level of socioeconomic status, in every race, age and geographic location. The face of a criminal is not something that should be stereotyped; it is not a genealogical trait that is embedded into a particular race or gender. If this is true, then why do we consistently see this happening in our society?
Why is it that when Hurricane Katrina destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, leaving many with no means of obtaining food for their family, a white man is described as “finding” food, while a black man is described as “looting”?
I spent some time reading through the hashtags that have sprouted since the last indictment verdict, and found some truly terrible stories. The hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite tells the stories of many people expressing how white privilege has allowed them to get away with crimes usually punishable by law. In contrast, the hashtag #LivingWhileBlack shows the humiliating accounts many people of color face every day, from being accused of “trespassing” when walking to class at a prestigious university, to being subjected to random vehicle searches because they “fit the description” of criminals.
I want to believe we live in a world with racial equality. I want to believe that we all have an equal opportunity to succeed. But every day, instances like these make me lose more and more faith in humanity. My prayers are with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. While I may never understand your pain and anger as vividly as you do, my heart goes out to you. We need change and equality if we truly want to flourish as a nation.