By: Elizabeth Ojo
Scrolling through the news online, I pass a headline that screams that the police have shot yet another Black teenager. Not again is my first thought. I have seen this headline too many times. It hurts too much to read. I keep scrolling.
It has now been over two months since unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brownwas shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. His killer, Officer Darren Wilson, remains free albeit in hiding and the world has largely moved on. News cameras have been shut off, many protesters have packed up and no one is watching anymore. However, Ferguson should not become a tragic footnote in history. It should be a watershed; a turning point for race relations in America heralding a new era of mutual respect and an acknowledgement that #blacklivesmatter (a hashtag popularized by protestors during this past summer of unrest). The lives of Vonderrit Myers, Kendrec McDade, John Crawford III, Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner matter. These names belong to innocent Black men slaughtered in the street. Some were accused of a crime but never given the luxury of a trial before being executed by police officers in broad daylight. So what lessons can be learned from the actions of our neighbors to the south?
Firstly, protest is powerful. Protestors in Ferguson were met with tear gas and tanks, riot gear, and arrests. Still they soldier on, declaring last month “FergusonOctober” and Oct. 22 a national day of action against police brutality. They don’t rest. And neither should we when we see an injustice. Recent announcements about the proposed hike in fees and tuition have left many upset. But all this talk is not translating into enough action. The #IAmAStudent protests involved a very small fraction of our campus. If we truly want our voices heard, we must MAKE them heard.
The unrest over Brown’s killing and the unwarranted police response provoked international media attention and even brought Attorney General Eric Holder to the scene. This intense scrutiny forced the police chief himself to change his account of the incident several times, eventually revealing Brown’s innocence. This should be a second lesson to us; we must demand excellence and accountability from our leaders. We here at UBC and in this nation, have the freedom to question authority. We must exercise it.
These lives matter and Mike Brown’s unjust death has unearthed an unrest that’s been stirring for centuries. We can learn from this. Make it known that injustice will not be tolerated here despite whatever form it takes.