Labor Leader Address Violence in Ferguson, MI
Statement of Rev. Terry Melvin
International President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
We are living once again through the tragic serial drama of America. It is the depressing reality TV we get exposed to every few months. Every episode is different in the details. The actors change, the location is different, the facts vary – but the theme remains the same. An unarmed colored youth (either black or brown) under the age of 18 is tragically murdered by an armed law enforcer. The enforcer can be a cop, a community watch advocate, or a zealot vigilante. That title of the law enforcer isn’t as important as the fact that they are offered a shroud of vindication for attempting to enforce laws. The victim is always unarmed, physically intimidating though still a minor, and engaged in some questionable behavior. The community is always outraged at the murder, committed to demanding justice, and routinely labeled as rioters.
This is the American narrative. As stated earlier, the actors change: from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown. The law enforcer varies from police officer to vigilant citizen. The neighborhoods range from down south to mid-west. But the narrative is always the same. An unarmed youth is left dead, society vehemently picks sides, and nothing changes. From Trayvon to Michael what have we really learned as a society? What is different beyond the details? Families are still suffering, communities are torn apart, politicians have jostled for position, organizations have ramped up fundraising, and bodies keep coming. It is no longer enough to just ask about Ferguson, MI we have to ask about our society.
These violent incidences are no longer circumstantial. There have been too many for far too long for us to act as if this is unique. These are not isolated incidents; they are endemic results of a societal failure. We are failing our youth when we disregard their deaths. Black or white, big or little, when youth are murdered it is a tragedy. We still mourn Colombine for the deaths of all those kids in that school shooting. We never ask if any victims were physically intimidating, or deserving to be killed, or if they bullied the murderers. We mourned their loss because kids should not be killed. Sadly, when we remove the youth from the school and put them on the streets and change the killer from an unknown to a title we respect, that murder takes on a different shape. We no longer cry for the dead but instead demand evidence.
When our youth die we need to stop running to our camps. Cops need to stop blindly defending their own and the community needs to own up to its members behavior. We need to be honest and upfront. We need to stop seeing this as adversarial and treating it for what it is: a national tragedy. When the dust settles in Ferguson we will be left with a torn community but no lessons moving forward. We will cry for Michael while we wait for the next victim. This needs to stop. Communities need to take back control of their streets. Police need to remember they are community members first. Only cooperation will lead to salvation. No more dead bodies of our babies but rather babies being brought up by their community. We can do this. We have done this. It is time to stop picking sides and build one road for us all to walk down together.