I woke up to news of another brother Philando Castille being murdered just days after Alton Sterling was executed in Baton Rouge. I've received a barrage of text messages all steeped in the same mood of anger, frustration, and hopelessness that I feel. I find myself in a peculiar place, just under eight years ago I thought we were close to realizing the dream of Dr Martin L King Jr watching as we elected our nation’s first black President, but now I have quickly watched that dream fade into a nightmare. Starting with Trayvon Martin, and countless other young black men and women, commit the crime of living while black and now this has happened so often that we are growing numb to it. We utilize social media to alert each other of the injustice, we post the video or pictures of the vile crimes, each time with growing cynicism knowing that out rants don’t matter as we watch a grand jury return no indictment proving that to them our lives don’t matter. What do we do? Knowing none of us are exempt. Any of us could be the next headline, and we are dying, shot dead in the streets simply because the little boys in blue are still afraid of the dark. We are living in a world policed by officers terrified of the citizens they view as subhuman that they are pledged to protect and serve. So the question remains what do we do, and when will our lives really matter?
In a time like this we must look back to our ancestors for guidance. On February 18, 1965 in Selma Alabama black people’s hearts ached in a similar way that ours do today. 27 year old Jimmie Lee Jackson (a community activist and church deacon) was beaten and shot by policeman James Bonard Fowler (who wasn’t charged with this crime until 42 years after the death). Jackson was participating in a peaceful march to the Perry County jail where civil rights icon James Orange was being held. The police said they believed the church members in this march were planning a jail break, and met them before they could reach the jail to confront them. It was then that Jackson was shot twice in the abdomen by Fowler who claimed he thought Jackson was going for a gun. The aftermath of this young brothers death was, bloody Sunday, the Selma to Montgomery March, and finally the passage of the voting rights act.
Our ancestors gave us a blueprint they went from protest, impacted policy with the signing of the voting rights act, and paved the way for us all to change the scape of our lives by being able to march to the polls. Their reaction to another death of a young black man at the hands of racist police was to move from protest, to policy, to the polls. Today post Shelby County v. Holder which directly impacted and countermanded the authority of section 5 of the Voting rights Act which gave the power to the justice department to dispute any changes in the states section 5 covered. While the Supreme Court didn’t strike down section 5, it did rule the section 4b was unconstitutional because the coverage formula was 49 years old, without section 4b no jurisdiction will be subject to section 5. This year marks the first presidential election since 1965 that we will vote without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.
What will be said about this generation’s response to tyranny? It’s hard to gauge the correct response, do we protest, and does our vote really matter. This season of American history is filled for many with a sense of hopelessness. Will our collective response to this time filled with injustice, amount to twitter rants and Facebook post, or will we ban together in unity and move from Protest, to policy, to the polls! We have to once again make these local issues of new age lynching a national issue and began to stand our ground with real policy change, only then will our lives really matter.