We can't pretend we don't see
With unflinching awareness, the stories roll out one-by-one of all of the people killed in police custody over the past several years. In 140 characters or less, Shaun has become the journalist for the pain, anger and frustration of people for whom there will be no justice. He is retweeting posts and articles of those who have a front seat view. This isn't the story we are watching on the news. It is rawer...much closer than that.
The picture unfolding isn't one I've seen before. If I'm in danger, I'm calling 911. I still remember the officers who visited my elementary school. It is deeply ingrained in me to call someone in uniform if I need help to be safe.
But the reality is, not everyone in our country is under that same blanket of safety. And I'm weeping as I type this. I want to believe that our world is different than the black and white photos of the national guard standing in the streets of Birmingham injuring black teens with firehoses. The events in Baltimore reveal it is not.
Shaun writes: "Ending police brutality or even effectively managing it with consequences for perpetrators would END ALL RIOTS."
We look at riots and shake our heads. Destruction isn't the answer. However, haven't you ever been angry enough to smash something? I have. It was never effective, but always made me feel slightly better. What do you do when the anger runs this deep? When playing by the rules gets you nowhere? When you are living in a world that most treat as invisible?
All of us should be owning the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Why? Because the profound truth is that we are going to have to start caring a hell of a lot more than we do now if we want to see real change. It isn't enough to believe that black lives matter...they have to matter personally, to us. And yes, it can be an awkward conversation when your skin is white, but our neighbors have to know that we care about this. That they aren't standing alone.
One of the retweets in @ShaunKing's feed laments: "You say you want peace, but what you really want is silence."
I'm deeply grateful Shaun King isn't silent.
Corruption thrives in secret. Sunshine...exposure...is what makes it stop. There is video of Freddie Gray all the way up until he gets into the van. It is what is fueling the outrage.
We are loathe to criticize the police because we know there are thousands of good men doing a hard job well. But ultimately, those that are good are going to have to join in breaking the silence. They have to stop tolerating any hint of racism in their ranks. Any hint in themselves.
As for the rest of us, exposure is what shut down Birmingham. Photographs on newspapers across the country revealed what was really happening. The fairly new technology of television took Dr. Martin Luther King's words beyond the steps of Washington where they were embraced by more than a single race.
So people, get out your smart phones. Something terrible is going on all around us. All of us are about to become journalists because this has to stop.