Fall is the time for holidays. The time for cheer, joy, hope, and peace on Earth. It’s the story we’ve been told as children and naively believe as adults. This year is different for the general public. This year media coverage isn’t filled with images of tree lighting ceremonies, Christmas caroling kids, and great holiday deals. This year the media is being forced to face the dark dirty secret of America . . . institutionalized racism.
I previously wrote about how the murder of Mike Brown brought birth to the movement #BlackLivesMatter, a movement that has shined a long needed light back on racial discrimination in this country. Mike Brown’s death wasn’t that different from the numerous accounts of Black men and women being killed by the police, but it was special in the sense that it seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Another high profile, racially fueled case, is the Death of Eric Garner. On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner was placed in an illegal chokehold by New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo forced to the ground and held down by several officers where he repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” Garner suffered from asthma and the lack of air caused him to go into cardiac arrest which resulted in his death. Unlike the case of Michael Brown, the entire incident was caught on tape. Although the coroner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, on December 3, 2014 the grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo on any of the numerous charges that were deliberated on. Garner’s case once again highlights the police brutality those in the Black community have faced for centuries. Wave after wave of protest have been happening across the nation in protest of the grand jury’s decision.
On November 22, 2014 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland Police Officers when responding to reports of Rice pointing and playing with a toy gun. The caller who called it in even stated that the gun is “Probably fake”, but this did not stop the officers from firing on Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene. As the nation shows its outrage for the numerous acts of Police brutality those who usually turn a blind eye to it all, now have no choice but to pay attention.
Following Michael Brown’s death many protesters took to the malls where they staged “die ins” in protest of the grand jury decision in Missouri on Black Friday, subsequently sales fell 11%. Eric Garner protest interrupted the beloved Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The issue of race and social justice has taken the main stage during a time of year that is often reserved for gifts, holiday specials, and festive decorations. For once our nation has to deal with the issues that have been festering like an untreated infection for decades. While many may blame the protestors for this disruption in regularly scheduled programming, we should instead look to the police.
The consistent, malicious, unjustified, and well documented treatment of Black citizens with both deadly and excessive force has resulted in the disruption of the cherished holiday season. You will not turn on the news and hear stories of holiday cheer. Instead you will seem the surmounted pain, sadness, and anger of a people who have been victimized since their inception into this country. While the racial tension across the country is thick enough to cut with a knife, I have to rejoice because for once as a Black American I feel our cries have been heard. Maybe, just maybe these can be the first steps toward real change.