You know the story of Mike Brown. I don’t have to tell you. I don’t have to say he was shot six times in broad daylight on Canfield drive by a Ferguson police officer. I don’t have to say the bullets left multiple entrance and exit wounds, that four were in his arm and the other two, in his face, the final one shattering through this right eye and instantly killing him. You know that the shots were likely fired from a distance, as no gunpowder was present on the young man’s body, and multiple eyewitnesses indicate that Mr. Brown had his hands up.
You know they left his body in the street for four hours, between 12:01 and sometime after 4:00. You probably even know that it took a week for Darren Wilson’s name to be released, and I don’t have to tell you that Wilson, 28, hasn’t yet been charged or even indicted, that the Ferguson police force is being investigated by the DOJ for breach of Constitutional rights. Furthermore, the loaded jury assigned to his case has been accused of misconduct. You even know that after thousands of protesters took to the streets, the Ferguson police responded with militarized force, arresting even journalists. Now, almost two months later, the protests continue.
And they god damn should continue.
Because we all know what happened to Mike Brown. We know what happened to Trayvon. And we know what happens to countless other young Black men who are racially profiled and gunned down in the United States every year.
Mike Brown was supposed to start college last month. He was eighteen. I didn’t know him, but it’s hard to look at his picture without crying.
I lost a friend once who was only eighteen. His name was Shane. He was a skinny boy with curly hair who sometimes wore glasses. The last memory I have of him is not of the last time I saw him. It was before that. I was visiting his wife, a friend of mine from high school, who was my age – nineteen at the time. They’d been married for about a year and were in love. I remember them living in a house with brown carpets and white walls, but it was six years ago; who could remember?
It was late that night. We’d probably been drinking and went out to the children’s playground at the elementary school next door, swinging and playing like little kids like we had a hundred times.
The memory I have of Shane is of him standing in the hallway, looking into his infant daughter’s room. He always put her to bed because she liked to go to sleep to the sound of his voice. He was looking into her bedroom, his glasses on, and I could only see the side profile of his face
I remember nights before that, nights when he would wrap his arm around my waist, feel the bones in my hips with probing, curious fingers. I remember another time when I had cramps and I let him rub my tummy as I laid curled up in a ball on he and his wife’s bed. I remember when they first got together – Josie and Shane – how she said maybe he could teach me how to kiss, that she wouldn’t mind sharing him for a good cause, to help a good friend.
I believe I loved him, for what it was worth, and I believe my love was non-threatening, non-jealous, just the love of pure friendship with an added desire for touch.
The only similarity between Shane and Mike Brown is their sudden deaths, their immediate removal from everything around them, the robbed potential. It’s wrong to compare or even juxtapose the two – Shane passed away when his car veered in front of a semi, sailing into the wrong lane as he fell asleep at the wheel after long nights of working multiple jobs. And Mike Brown died because of senseless, needless, intentional violence
But when I cry for Mike Brown and all he’ll never have and the dreams he’ll never see, I cry for Shane, too.
This is an opinion blog post. This a is a blog post that says I care about Mike Brown. I care about every young Black man who has to fear for his very life when walking in a suburban neighborhood, or a gated community, with cigarillos or with skittles.
Last night, Sister Outsider Poetry came to speak on my campus, and spoken word poet Dominique Christina read a piece called, “Summer of Violence,” after the 73 killings in Denver, 1993. She spoke about young Black men, fourteen years old, predicting their own deaths, paying for their funerals in advance. When she started to read about how that summer, that violence, is still alive and well today, alive and incarnate in the body of Darren Wilson, inanimate in the rotting corpse of Mike Brown, in the body of a child who will never open his eyes, who was executed just days after his high school graduation, who was eighteen years old and who was Black – so we don’t have to care about him, right? – We don’t have to care about anyone who isn’t blonde-hair bushy-tailed – well, when she read that, she started crying.
But it wasn’t just Dominique Christina who cried reading Summer of Violence. It was me, listening in the furthest row back, suddenly out of control in my emotional scope. Because, you see, I’ve been talking about Mike Brown for two months, and it’s fallen on deaf ears. I live in Idaho, I get that, but Mike Brown was still a human being.
And I’m not Black, and I think because of that fact, people have a hard time understanding why Mike Brown’s murder has impacted me so deeply, why I feel the loss of him in every part of my body, the loss of a boy I didn’t know. The loss of a man who will never grow to be a father, a husband, a lover. The loss of a mother, her son.
And more than that. If this nation ever had any innocence – and I don’t deceive myself – but if it did, if it for one moment believed that it has made real progress toward racial equality, the death of Mike Brown throws that into sharp relief. We will never have equality until the color of a person’s skin no longer dictates their future.
This topic is too emotional to write on much more, but here’s a song, and I hope you listen to it. It describes everything in better words than I have to give.
You know what happened to Mike Brown. You know every detail. The question is: What the fuck are you doing about it?
Rest in Peace, Mike Brown. I’m not going to stop saying your name. We will never stop until something changes.