Date: November 2014

Originally Published: Huffington Post

First and foremost, my continued prayers for peace and comfort go to the family and friends of Michael Brown, as well as the parents of every child our nation has lost due to gun violence. As we learned about the grand jury’s decision last night, the results for most of us were not surprising, but disheartening nonetheless. It disturbed me that instead of deciding whether or not there was enough evidence existing to support an indictment, the jury essentially conducted a full trial. That was not the charge of a grand jury, as I understood it.

In addition, many would want America to focus on minute details of this single case and ask that the verdict be accepted, but to do that would miss the forest for much more dense and troubling trees. Perhaps it would be a reasonable request if history did not repeat itself time and time again. However, the killing of Michael Brown is not about one incident, but is another example of how all too often young black or brown unarmed men are being killed by the people who are paid to protect them. Even worse is when our justice system sends out a resounding message that it doesn’t care.

Perhaps the call to examine this one case would be understandable if justice came more often, but we’ve seen these unjust acts in communities of more color for far too long. We’ve seen someone get beat up by four cops on camera; shot in the back while handcuffed in a train station in Oakland; killed at a Walmart in Ohio; choked to death after his football hit a patrol car. We’ve seen someone shot 41 times reaching for his ID; someone shot 50 times on his wedding night. And another walking into his home and being shot in his bathroom here in N.Y.C.

These are but a few, very few, killings where people have been asked to accept that no one will be held accountable and should simply move on. I hope the recent choking death in Staten Island and shooting death in Brooklyn don’t join the ranks of unaccountability. Our society must be re-examined at every level, from law enforcement, to criminal justice, to the basic way we relate to each other. By not indicting Officer Wilson, our society appears to place the officer above the law, especially in context with the multitude of cases before this one.

Elected officials in Missouri and across the country must advocate for a cultural-systemic shift within their police departments to reform the broken system that consistently targets men and women of more color. With that in mind, we must sustain our unity and have our emotions fuel a relentless pursuit of reform. And yes, I join the family of Michael Brown in asking for protests of peace, as long as others who have the same request join in the call for justice and equity. JUSTICE and EQUITY are what people deserve. And the pursuit of JUSTICE and EQUITY are what people should hear, so they can fully understand the call for peace. In 2014, it should not be this difficult, by virtually every single statistical metric, to be black in America.