(Editorial note: Recent events in the US have made it necessary for me to speak out. Thank you for listening.)
Yes, shame on you! Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and all the other young black men and boys who have lost their lives unjustly at the hands of America’s lawmen, who subsequently are absolved of all responsibility and blame. What a travesty of justice! Are the lives of these young men not important to America? Just expendable non-entities? What is happening in the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I grew up during the Civil Rights Movement. I marched for our rights and those of all US citizens. I experienced a race riot and the subsequent harm it did to our community. I, too, was a victim of discrimination and racial hatred. Fortunately I was never beaten and never arrested, but I know people who were. A college friend beaten during the race riots in Atlanta. One of my brother’s friends punched in the stomach by a policeman just because he was black and standing around. My nephew arrested unjustly by the police because he just happened to fit their interpretation of a description of someone they were looking for. After all, we all look alike.
I’ve lived in Europe for over 25 years. I left an America which seemed to be on the way to healing its wounds with regards to racism and discrimination. That made me happy and proud. There were people of color occupying crucial management positions in some of our most important companies. Schools were integrating, allowing our children exposure to other children of different races, cultures and ethnic groups. It is with the children that we instill the values of respect and acceptance for others. In general, things just seemed to be better for minorities.
But I was wrong. Oh so wrong. A backlash would set in as the state of the US economy worsened. The old hatreds would raise their ugly heads and challenge Americans to continue their efforts to move forward and embrace all Americans.
In the past few months, I’ve read dozens of articles and watched myriads of videos about black students at some of the most prestigious American universities voicing their dismay at the fact that they are treated differently from their white classmates – a throwback to the racial environment of the sixties and seventies. I’ve watched shocking iPhone videos of people of color (not only blacks) being shot on the street by irresponsible lawmen or people of color minding their own business arrested using overly violent tactics. I’ve read horrifying accounts of police brutality toward young black men. Policement using the only weapon they know, violence, in the face of suspects whose physical appearance scares them. As tears came to my eyes, I had to remind myself that I was in 2014 and not 1969.
What is America coming to? In the words of Martin Luther King, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” I fear we will all end up together as fools. It is a real shame, and my heart is truly saddened.