Post-Michael Brown murder, we cannot afford to fall back to sleep

Janaye Ingram
Janaye Ingram, Acting Director of National Action Network

News related to the killing of Michael Brown is still keeping people engaged on the issues of excessive force and police brutality. For so many people, Ferguson took the nation by storm, with the images that were almost a throwback to days gone by or similar to a box-office thriller where some end of the world situation creates martial law and citizens are just trying to figure out how they will make it through. But this wasn’t the 1960s and it wasn’t some made-up situation for ratings, this was real, just like the death of 18-year-old Brown.
Since then, there has been more engagement by your average, ordinary citizen in thinking about solutions that have to be applied to prevent this type of thing from happening again. There has been an increased buzz about cases that are similar that previously went unnoticed. Cases like that of Ramarley Graham, John Crawford III, and Victor White III have now been reported in new stories and gained new traction in addressing the alleged police brutality and excessive force.
But haven’t we been here before?
In 1992, I remember the outrage that stemmed from Rodney King being beaten by police officers, I remember them getting off and the riots that followed. I will never forget the bitter taste in my mouth as if I was the one who had been beaten and tasting blood. Where was the justice in that case?
And there have been many others like it, where we witnessed the abusive nature of a few bad cops who use their badge as an opportunity to abuse citizens who they have somehow classified in their mind as undermining their authority.
The situations are then exacerbated when many of these cops are then exonerated of any wrongdoing.
In those other moments, how did we not fight harder, not push further?
Maybe we believed it was isolated or that it wouldn’t happen again. Maybe we thought there was nothing we could do about it. And so instead of collectively pushing to end the racial profiling, the excessive policing, and the senseless murder of Black people in America, we went back to sleep. We slept with our eyes wide open as numerous other cases tried to wake us. We slept thinking that someone else would make the change for us, not realizing the need for collective power. We slept, maybe tossing slightly. Hearing the call, maybe we opened one eye, but just as soon, we rolled over and went back to sleep.
This moment has shown us that we need change.
We need to change the way we think about our power as people and how we leverage it. We cannot afford to go back to sleep. We are at the dawn of our own awakening and we must stay alert. The moment we shut our eyes, we risk another Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, John Crawford, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, and the list goes on. We owe it to ourselves and to our sons and daughters to fight what our reality is and give them a new reality where they don’t have to feel that they are automatically going to be a suspect or even worse, a victim.
We must register to vote; we must push our local, state and federal elected officials to create new policies that protect us and we must work with police to create communities where trust can be built. We cannot go back to sleep. Too many lives depend on us.

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