United States of Stagnation: It’s One Year After #Ferguson, Has Anything Changed?

By Roan Farb, Opinions Staff Writer

rfarb@unca.edu

8/26/2015

379 days have passed since the death of Michael Brown.

This was a tragedy in which a young, unarmed black man was shot and killed by a police officer, on his way to visit his grandmother in a suburb of St. Louis, in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown’s death reinvigorated a trend on social media, #BlackLivesMatter, that stemmed from the results of George Zimmerman shooting and killing Trayvon Martin in 2012. The Black Lives Matter movement is a campaign against police brutality toward black Americans.

Brown’s death brought more attention to the way police officers handle their interactions  with minorities. In the last year, we have seen a concerning rise in how many citizens feel the need to film their interactions with officers of the law.

Recent findings involving the July 13 death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman found dead in her jail cell while being held on charges of assaulting a public servant, brought to light a dark side of our country’s justice system.

Upon further investigation of Bland’s death, foul play was discovered to be involved in her premature death. Witnesses of Bland’s apprehension said officers slammed Bland’s head into the ground, and they heard Bland say she couldn’t hear at all at the time of her arrest.  Medical examiners discovered scrapes on Bland’s back originating from someone applying pressure, using their knees, to Bland’s back. A leaf was found in one of the cuts, supporting the assertion that the wounds were likely fresh.

On the evening of June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof was apprehended on the suspicions of committing a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Roof allegedly murdered nine black Americans, including the church’s senior pastor, and state senator, Clementa C. Pinckney. Three days after the shooting, investigators discovered that Roof owned a website titled The Last Rhodesian, full of photos of him posing with numerous symbols associated with neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

The Last Rhodesian contained a manifesto outlining Roof’s viewpoints on blacks in general, among other minority groups, Roof claimed to have adopted white-supremacist views after reading research on the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Roof is charged with nine counts of murder, three attempted murders and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, in addition to federal hate-crime charges. His trial begins July 11, 2016.

Many Americans were outraged that Roof was not shot at, or handled with lethal force, during his arrest, which police handled in a surprisingly non-violent manner.

I happened to be staying with a friend two minutes from Emanuel AME Church on the night Roof shot and killed nine people while they prayed and gathered in a place of worship.

It’s horrible for me to imagine my own parents never returning from a night of prayer at their church in our hometown of Waxhaw, North Carolina. You’d never let your mind jump to such a grim conclusion. You’d never guess that a gun would ever be in the same place as God.

It’s a power-stripping feeling to think of someone murdering you on an evening you decided to spend in church.  How is a person of color supposed to feel safe anywhere after hearing about what Roof did to nine individual human beings?

In the tail-end of July, a group of fully-grown adults decided it would be a great idea to crash a black child’s birthday in Douglasville, Georgia, yelling death threats and racial slurs at the children as they drove in on pickup trucks.

The party crashers went as far as to yell the N-word at the children. Partygoers claim the men held knives, guns, and tire irons in their hands. The local police department refused to comment on the situation.

Thankfully, a few partygoers were able to record cell phone videos of the racists, and they will hopefully one day be brought to justice.

So it’s been a whole year since Ferguson. I was asked to write an article on what’s changed in America since the death of Mike Brown, and all I can say, I don’t think anything substantial has.

Just two days ago, Jamyla Bolden, a 9-year-old girl, was shot to death in her own home. The shooting happened just blocks from the very spot where Mike Brown was murdered.

Though the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain strength and support, I believe we’re a long way from seeing any real justice for African Americans in our country.

African Americans everywhere are still rightfully scared for their lives, unsafe under incarceration, and struggling to survive in a justice system that is built to prey on minority incarceration. So what’s different about the world since the death of Mike Brown? As Nelson Mandela once said, “Where you stand depends on where you sit”.

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