Somebody needs to tell me when Michael Brown has been chosen as the face of Black oppression…There are so many great people to embrace as heroes in the Black community. Deciding that you’re going to embrace a guy that knocked over a convenient store, and then according the grand jury testimony acted in ways that would get my children shot…that’s your hero?” – Joe Scarborough, MSNBC Morning Joe
Dear Joe Scarborough,
The systematic and perpetual oppression of Black Americans is not an issue to be toyed with. Let’s be clear here. This is not just about Mike Brown. Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and so on are examples of how law enforcement is allowed to become judge, jury and executioner when it comes to Black lives. The anger and fury expressed by Black Americans is based on perpetual violence at the hands of law enforcement. To you, the police protect and serve but many of us need protection from the police. The denial of your privilege prevents you from acknowledging this.
In our lives, the jury decision not to indict does not suddenly absolve Darren Wilson of Mike Brown’s death. Historically U.S. jury decisions do not sway in favor of protecting Black lives. This recent decision is just another painful reminder of that fact.
Furthermore, the narrative that victims must be flawless in order to have justice is not only absurd but dehumanizing. The moment a Black body touches the ground, media is clamoring to search their records. Even 12-year-old Tamir Rice was not exempt.
This is about Black lives being threatened by law enforcement on a daily basis. All that is needed is a story/narrative which depicts the person as threatening. Suddenly, by invoking “fear” Black deaths are justified with all minds cleared.
The “I was afraid of a Black person” narrative is allowing murderers to run free in the name of court-justified trepidation. The Rosewood Massacre of 1923 is an example of the horrors Black Americans have faced with court refusal to prosecute their murderers.
We’ve been dealing with this for a very long time.
Civil rights leader and journalist Ida B. Wells spent years documenting lynching’s across America, bearing witness to crimes that would go unpunished. Unfortunately the words from her speech Lynch Law In America given in 1900 still ring true 114 years later.
In her opening remarks, Wells gives a chilling overview that is painfully familiar,
“Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an “unwritten law” that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal.”
Wells continues, “The thief who stole a horse, the bully who ‘jumped’ a claim, was a common enemy.”
The narrative of Mike Brown “the bully” or Mike Brown “the thief” is so eerily familiar. The storyline had already been created for Darren Wilson to utilize.
Wells also states, “In fact, for all kinds of offenses – and, for no offenses – from murders to misdemeanors, men and women are put to death without judge or jury; so that, although the political excuse was no longer necessary, the wholesale murder of human beings went on just the same.”
Approximately 114 years later, Darren Wilson still had the privilege of making himself judge, jury and executioner with no penalty. In fact, he’s become richer for it.
We are still living under the tyranny of America’s unwritten Lynch Laws. We’re then blamed for our own deaths for failing to respond properly to slave codes.
In the words of Jesse Williams, “We are not making this up.”
When we scream Mike Brown’s name at protests, we are recognizing him as a human being. We are crying out to the world, that our brother has been slain.
See here the blood that was spilled.
See here his mother’s tears.
See here he was just a boy that deserved to live like all the other boys.
As we recognize his humanity, Darren Wilson calls him a “demon” and compares him to wrestler “Hulk Hogan.” Referring to Mike as if he were some wild beast to be tamed. The St. Louis Police Department called him a “myth.” Even the New York Times said he was, “No Angel,” as if angel status was a prerequisite for living. This is also a reminder that for African Americans, mainstream media is often complicit in perpetuating stereotypes and fear mongering narratives surrounding our lives.
So no, we’re not making Mike Brown a hero. We’re asserting his humanity because if we don’t do it no one else will. His life represents our lives.
We yell Mike Brown’s name, shut down malls, boycott stores, block highways and chain ourselves to train stations because there is no other option for us.
Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer said the unforgettable words, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That meant she refused to stop working until the world was changed. As the children of her legacy we are going to do the same thing. We don’t want to die and have the world think it justified.
Mike Brown was human and he deserved to live. Whether you think he was a choirboy, college student, or thief, Darren Wilson had no right to take his life. Darren Wilson had no right to make himself judge and jury. Darren Wilson would have never killed Mike Brown if he weren’t terrorizing him in lynch law fashion, for walking down the street. And we know this, because we have lived this.
So yes, Joe Scarborough. You should get used to hearing the names Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and so on. Because we’re not going to let you or anyone else in the world forget them. We are not trash to have our lives thrown away, forgotten simply because our story no longer amuses you.
Black lives matter.
Jessica Ann Mitchell
Update: Joe’s Response