On August 9, 2014 Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. As his body lay in the street, heartbreak and anger and questions and dismay spread through the small St. Louis suburb and right out to the wider world. It hasn’t stopped yet.
It’s been a year since Mike Brown’s death intensified the already smoldering movement to affirm the lives of Black folks, and since then we’ve watched in horror as many of our brothers and sisters have been cut down way before their time and turned into hashtags–or not even mentioned at all.
According to the Washington Post, 24 unarmed Black men have been shot and killed by police since Brown’s body lay in the street for four-and-a-half hours, a warning to bystanders that this could easily be you.
Through their research the Washington Post found Black men are seven times more likely to die by police gunfire than white people, and that doesn’t even account for the women and children who have died by way of a police bullet, chokehold, baton, or Taser.
Last November, while we were all still reeling from Brown’s death, and the protests sweeping around America, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down by Cleveland Police officers who claim to have mistook his toy gun for the real thing.
We gave him a warning, they said, but surveillance video proved that to be a lie. Within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene, Rice was down, a bullet to his torso, and neither officer did anything to help. The tween was dead the next day.
Go to school, critics say.
Don’t be a thug or dress like one.
Follow the law.
Just be nice.
These are all things Black people are told will keep us alive, but time and time again we’re reminded that nothing will save us from someone’s irrational bias or race-based fear or too-easy access to a gun. Expressing ourselves is seen as “combative” or “threatening;” pleading our case is reduced to being “uncooperative” and illegal; asserting our rights as human beings in America might just get us killed.
I started BrownBoyGenius a year ago with the mission to change the narrative about boys of color. Back then I was optimistic. I wanted to change things and I felt this space was one way to help.
Last July, I wrote:
Those of us who raise, love, care about, and pray for boys of color understand what they’re up against. We understand that there are police officers who might stop them for no reason, shopkeepers who may follow them around, and overzealous neighborhood watch captains who may question whether or not they belong based on nothing but the color of their skin.
And while we’re at it, yes, parents of brown boys also understand that our boys are more likely to drop out of school, be a victim of violence, or have a harder time getting a job—even when they’re qualified. But despite the challenges, institutional racism, and discrimination our children face on the daily, brown boys around the world continue to excel, grow, and thrive.
And that’s why we’re here.
So far it’s been one hell of a year. Our fan base has grown, we’ve highlighted awesome Black boys here on our blog and on our Facebook page, but still…our sons and brothers and nephews and fathers and cousins are still being killed, both by police officers who see them as threats and those who look like them.
While my optimism isn’t gone, I’m tired. I’m tired of the killings, I’m tired of watching mothers grieve in public, I’m tired of worrying about my son every time he’s out of my sight.
I’m tired, but I will not stop advocating for, loving up on, and fighting for our sons. I owe it to Mike Brown, and all of the other victims of senseless violence, to keep pushing.
I owe it to Mike Brown to make this world a better place than the one he left. And I hope you do the same.