Justice For [insert names of innocents lost for no reason at all]
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am outraged. I am heartbroken. I am ashamed. And you should be, too.
On February 28, 2012 seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while he was walking back to his father’s home from a convenience store. He carried an iced tea and a bag of skittles he’d purchased and was talking to a friend on his cell phone. According to police records and a statement from the friend on the phone, Trayvon was followed, chased, and then shot by “a self appointed captain of the neighborhood watch.” No charges have been filed against the shooter even though “police may have missed a racial slur uttered” during the call placed to 9-1-1.
On March 3, 2012, twenty year old Bo Morrison was shot while hiding on a porch to escape the possible ramifications of attending a party where there was underage drinking. According to a postmortem blood alcohol test, Bo was intoxicated. He was not burglarizing, vandalizing, or violent. It was not his porch. He did not know the homeowner. And the homeowner shot and killed him. No charges have been filed against the homeowner.
I will never know what it is to be looked at as if I’m a criminal because of the color of my skin. Certainly, no one will ever expect me to snatch her purse. I will never be shot while walking home from a store because I was wearing my hoodie or because I looked ‘suspicious.’ And if I hid on a porch, I might be shooed off, but in all probability would not be shot and killed because of it. Why? Because I am white? Because I am a woman?
Too often, I read about incidents such as these. Too often, I also read about a miscarriage of justice, and I cannot help but ask, were these young men shot and killed because they were committing horrific acts against their fellow human beings, or were they shot and killed because they were black? Perhaps even more important, I have to ask why there is no accountability. Have we become so desensitized to death and violence that it isn’t even worth our time to speak up? Or, does it matter less because the victims were black?
I am in no way calling for more violence, or more death. I am not seeking for the individuals who committed these murders to be rounded up, dragged through the streets, and lynched. What I am calling for is justice. What I do advocate is that we think critically about the events that transpired, about the measures that were taken, about the fact that a cry, no, a demand, for justice would overshadow everything else if it were a black man at the other end of the gun, were it a Muslim at the other end of the gun. If it were a white man, woman, or young adult who was shot and killed, would local law enforcement drag their collective feet? Would they be debating about whether or not to bring charges against the shooter? I am obliged to think there would be no such feet-dragging were it the other way around.
As human beings, we have a responsibility and the ability to speak up and speak out about the things we know to be wrong. About travesties of justice. About senseless violence. About the loss of innocent lives. About the fact that the rules that apply to some of us, do not apply to all of us. We must speak up for those who are no longer able to speak up for themselves. I ask that you take this stand with me. I ask that you raise your voices to make this world a better place for everyone, not just some of us. I ask you to remember. I ask you to make a difference in the world around you.
Growing up in South Florida, Angela King struggled with her identity. She became confused about the messages she received from her church and family on issues like sexual identity and racial stereotypes. Disenfranchised, Angela began acting out and felt welcomed for the first time by a group of racist Skinheads: "They were angry and hated everyone. They made me feel like part of a family." Entrenched in the racist underground, crime became an increasingly important part of Angela's life. Though the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing made Angela reconsider her beliefs, she knew that abandoning her Skinhead affiliates would result in retaliation. Angela was arrested in 1998 and sentenced to six years in prison for her part in an armed robbery of a Jewish-owned store. Angela was released from prison three years early, in 2001, for good behavior and cooperation with the authorities. She has since graduated from the University of Central Florida with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. Angela routinely works as a keynote speaker, consultant, correspondent, and character educator in schools, communities, religious centers and elsewhere. She has been interviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Public Radio, and the National Resource Center for Racial Healing, among others, and has received several recognitions and awards for her dedication and support of Prejudice Reduction, Building Communities of Justice, as well as Holocaust education. Some of Angela's recent activities and work include: delegate and panelist at the Google Summit Against Violent Extremism, held in Dublin, Ireland, in June 2011; panelist at a 9/11 related commemoration event sponsored by the Department of Homeland Securities' Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism program, held in Washington D.C. in September 2011; Editor In Chief and Character Educator at LifeAfterHate.org; and is currently writing a memoir vis-á-vis her time inside and out of the racist underground.