I am sitting in my car just feet from where Mike Brown was brutality killed and where his memorial still stands. As I watch kids run home on this frigid day, I get an email: “The DOJ will not bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.” My face falls. I’m not usually disappointed by a government from which I expect so little, but for some reason, this hits me hard.
After so many meetings with the DOJ, Attorney General Eric Holder and many other elected officials, we are still in search of justice and accountability. As I share the news with Canfield residents–those who remained through the months of grieving and police harassment, I am met with no surprise and little interest. The same people who asked for President Obama to come to Ferguson in August are no longer concerned with a DOJ ruling. It seems like today is simply preparing us for when the same decision is made in the investigation of Mike Brown’s death.
Those same tears we all cried for Mike, we had already cried for Trayvon Martin. The same disappointment and disdain for the justice system just came back to us once again. Do they know what they are doing to Black people in this country? Can the first Black president release a statement compelling enough to console his people, the people who put him in office, during this never-ending time of agony, disappointment and shame? Would it even matter if he did?
I truly believe that there are scores of disenfranchised Black people across this nation are completely done with the justice system. How many times do you go back to get your heartbroken? We’ve learned a lot about the law in this fight, but those laws always take us to the same place: death, disappointment, no accountability. What good are these laws if they don’t serve the entire population? Why should we want to participate in a democracy that is anything but?
For people of color in this so-called great nation, it appears no matter who the key players are, ‘the system’ has the same outcomes for us. It is disheartening that Trayvon Martin will receive the same amount of justice under the first Black attorney general that Emmett Till received under a White one. I understand that the burden of proof for hate crime cases is extremely high, but how long can that be the excuse that allows the killers of Black people to get off scot free?
We often chant “The whole damn system is guilty as hell,” and I believe that to be true. And maybe justice is not blind but simply blindfolded when people of color are involved. I have come to understand that the United States of America has a justice system that is innately broken and has no moral authority to explain, provide or decide upon civil rights. Not so long as human rights are so easily violated here.
So, what do we do? Can we go to the United Nations and put the US on trial? Is there a court in this world powerful enough to make this country accountable to the people it has created and oppressed, accountable for centuries of disenfranchisement and abuse? I’d like to believe so, but perhaps I shouldn’t be optimistic here.
Tory Russell is a co-founder of Hands Up United.