I am angry.
I tried not to focus on Baltimore and Freddie Gray, but when asked to connect the continued devaluing of black and brown lives to mass incarceration, I could no longer just focus on the work without focusing on the problem. The problem of racism in America. Yes. I am angry.
I am angry that my 9 year old son asked me “if our lives matter, why does it keep happening?”
I’m angry that my 16 year old daughter gave up on the justice system after Trayvon’s murderer went free.
I’m angry that my husband’s mere existence is perceived as a threat to some.
I’m angry that my brother was beaten by a police officer in our hometown, Selma, AL and even his Harvard Law degree couldn’t protect him.
I’m angry that my client’s lives aren’t deemed valuable enough to be housed downtown and instead are being forced to move away from their attorneys, their families and public transportation because gentrification values profit over people.
I’m angry that I can’t breathe didn’t originate nor end with the death of Eric Garner.
Angry that as my ancestors were packed worse than animals on ships and forced to come to this country, they couldn’t breathe either.
Angry that in Selma, AL as marchers were walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were beaten and tear gassed, they couldn’t breathe either.
Angry that on April 19, 1960 in Nashville, Z. Alexander Lobby’s home was bombed because some people didn’t want him to breathe either.
Angry that exactly 55 years to the day, Freddie Gray died from spinal injuries after cops reused to give him his inhaler so he could breathe.
Angry that the youth of Baltimore can’t breathe from the tear gas being used against them because they are angry too and want answers and justice.
Dr. King stated: …I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? it has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.
These words sadly remain true as we refuse to address the real issues but instead simply focus on the symptoms.
The premise of Michelle Alexander’s book is that the racial caste system in America didn’t end but was just redesigned. She surmises that as a means of social control, Jim Crow and legal segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration that then relegates those formerly incarcerated into second class citizens.
She warns us that if we simply create policies but don’t change hearts and minds, we maybe end mass incarcerations the racial caste system will simply manifest itself in a different form.
When she was recently here, she stated that we cannot be distracted by symbols of racial progress. She continued that we can’t just change our mind about economics but we must change our minds about people. She continued by stating that in order to ignite a public conversation to change public consensus, we must have aggressive advocacy, and uses as an example the demonstrations in Ferguson.
So yes, I’m angry that we rather pretend to be colorblind than to deal with the demon that is racism that pervades our society.
I’m an angry black woman. An angry mother, wife, sister, Christian Public Defender. And you too should be angered and outraged about the dehumanization of people. I’m angry but also hopeful that you will join me in our collective, righteous anger; speaking truth in love.
Then listen closely tonight to hear if our candidates are talking about race, poverty, and aggressive advocacy.
Then make your voices heard through the allot box and then holding our elected officials accountable.
Make your voice heard by signing the ban the box petition tonight, encouraging others to do the same and voting for it in August.
Make your voice heard by listening to those who are directly affected by mass incarceration and advocate with them so all our voices are heard and lives are valued.