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OpEd: Freddie Gray and The Reality of The ‘Just Us’ System

It’s been over a year since Baltimore resident Freddie Gray was picked up by police and placed in the back of a police van where he suffered a fatal injury—a severed spine—while in police custody.

Yet, regardless of the facts, another mournful community goes without justice this week. How many not-guilty verdicts can the black community take? How long are we supposed to chant #BlackLivesMatter knowing all too well that when it comes to America’s “justice system” black folks have known for far too long that all we have is JUST US?

Since Gray’s ill-fated death, the city of Baltimore and black American at-large, has awaited answers and accountability by a justice system that has failed countless innocent black men, women and children. Black people who lost their lives and have been martyred in the streets, on playgrounds, on a walk home, while shopping, and asking for help, due to police brutality and vigilantes.

Image: People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest
In this Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, photo, people participate in a Black Lives Matter protest, stopping the Green Line light rail transit and automobile traffic, in St. Paul, Minn., in memory of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., one year ago Sunday. Richard Tsong-Taatarii / Pioneer Press via AP

According to the site Mapping Police Violence, police killed 102 unarmed black people in 2015, that is nearly two unarmed black people a week losing their lives to police violence according to the site, and yet naysayers to the gravity of this situation want us to discuss the myth of “black on black crime”?

There’re just aren’t enough hashtags, vigils, memorials, and protests to keep pace with this rate of police brutality against black humanity.

How is it even possible to turn a blind eye to the reality that there are two different Americas? A white America, where a lack of melanin is equated to innocence and the presumed guilt by reason of birth—shoot first, cover-up later, existence of black America.

Since the death of 16-year old Trayvon Martin - whose murderer was found not guilty while Trayvon was essentially tried for his own death instead of George Zimmerman - the unarmed black body count has reached a fever pitch. Even with video evidence of wrongdoing, as was the case with Eric Garner, the not guilty verdicts continue to flow like the toxic water in Flint, Michigan.

Not only does killing a black person garner no jail time, it can also turn you into a celebrity, as is the case with George Zimmerman. The gun he used to take the life of a black child netted $250K in a highly publicized online auction.

This week however could potentially mark a turning point with the Justice Department now seeking the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist that murdered nine black parishioners while they prayed last June at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof who was invited to join the prayer group sat with these people for hours before opening fire on them and sparing one so that she “could tell the story.”

While news of Justice Department’s decision should be applauded, how many black people have to be murdered by our white patriarchal system in order for America to realize that black lives aren’t inconsequential? A better question, ask yourself what this case would look like if it were handled not by the current Obama Administration but instead one lead by celebrated racist and xenophobe Donald Trump?

Black America shouldn’t be alone in their fight for justice, as too many memes have read, “white silence equals violence.” The collective dissonance of white America is what guarantees that #BlackLives still don’t matter.

It’s not up to black America alone to pursue justice for innocent black Americans. The arc of the moral universe will only bend towards justice if all of us are pushing it that way, not just us.

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