To Darren Wilson:
When I was a child and I would do something wrong like push my brother or break a drinking glass, my mother would give me this look. I think you all know what look I’m talking about. It’s the “If you do not knock it off this instance, I am sending you to live with your Grandmother and she will never, ever give you dessert” look. It was the only warning I ever needed. But I guess for Ferguson, Missouri police officer, Darren Wilson, six gunshots, including two to the head, was an adequate warning for unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Michael Brown is one of the countless African-American victims of racist police brutality. According to the Ferguson Police Department, Michael robbed a convenience store, fled the scene, harassed Officer Wilson who was passing by in a police car on his way from a different crime scene, tried to steal his gun, and was subsequently shot. They claim this all happened within ten minutes. They also claim that Wilson did not know Michael was a suspect for the robbery.
The police have not mentioned that the owners of the store do not believe that Michael Brown was the robber. The police have not mentioned that the owners of the store and the employees in the store are not the ones who called the police. The police have not mentioned that multiple witnesses have had the same story, saying that Michael attempted to cooperate with Wilson.
“Don’t shoot! I don’t have a gun!” were Michael’s last words. People should not have to say these things to the people who are supposed to protect them. People should not have to beg to live in a supposedly free nation, in any nation.
At night, I lie awake and imagine people I know saying those same words, wrapping their mouths around each syllable, praying.
I think I might have to Google “How to pray,” because when martial law is used to combat peaceful protesting, there is a problem.
When Palestinians halfway across the globe in Gaza war zones are giving tips to protesters in Missouri about how to protect themselves from the tear gas being thrown at them, there is a problem.
When the KKK and neo-Nazis are taking the side of the police, and Holocaust survivors and people who marched for civil rights with Dr. King are being arrested, there is a problem.
Do not tell me or the world otherwise.
While hiding behind a bookcase, fearing the anti-semitic creatures on the outside, Anne Frank was spilling oceans into her diary; she once wrote: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” It feels like police officers like Darren Wilson have been twiddling their thumbs for centuries, waiting for some cue to improve the world.
You see, when I ask “#WhatPictureWouldTheyUse,” it’s actually a trick question — as a young, white person in America, I am neck-deep in privilege and opportunity; they would use my school ID picture or maybe one I took at dinner the other night with my friends, and people in my community would say things like “it is a tragedy to have lost her” and “we are in shock about this.” But when my friends, my classmates, my fellow Americans who are black ask “#WhatPictureWouldTheyUse,” they are asking much different questions — they are asking: “Would I be racially profiled?” “Would police officers try to justify my murder rather than solve it?” “Would I be blamed for my own execution?”
I’m changing the title of this poem. This poem is “Michael Brown.” This poem is “Trayvon Martin.” This poem is “Eric Garner,” “John Crawford,” “Kendrec McDade,” “Black Youth who have the Misfortune of Living in a White Society where they can be Shot at Any Time for Any Reason.”
This poem is “Our Hands are Up With Yours.”
This poem is “You Are Not Alone in This Fight.”