Last Tuesday, a pregnant friend of mine learned that she and her husband were expecting a boy. Their elation was almost immediately tempered with unease when, just hours later, the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown was announced. That night, as #BlackLivesMatter began trending on social media, my friend heartbreakingly chimed in, “THIS black life I’m carrying matters immensely to me.”
For anyone who saw the image of Michael Brown’s hours-dead body lying exposed in the street and wondered whether a fair and impartial investigation – one that recognized the value of human life – would actually occur, the news on Tuesday came as a cold slap in the face. All I could think as I watched St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McColluch’s unabashedly biased delivery of the grand jury’s decision was that I was seeing first-hand what “lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification” actually looked like. Unlike several of my friends across the country who took to the streets in their respective cities to join in peaceful protests, I felt immobilized by the gravity of the injustice. The shooting death of Tamir Rice and this week’s decision in the Eric Garner grand jury only added weight to my already immobilized person. I was unable to write about the events and reluctant to discuss it. If protests are a collective expression of outrage and grief, then I grieved during the past week and a half as I have always grieved – wordlessly.
But as I have found, after grief springs hope. Earlier this week, the White House Administration announced steps it would take to strengthen the relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they must protect, including:
- Advancing the use of body worn cameras and promoting proven community policing initiatives;
- Creating a new task force to promote expansion of the community-oriented policing model, which encourages strong relationships between law enforcement and the communities that they serve as a proven method of fighting crime; and
- Reforming how the federal government equips state and local law enforcement – particularly with military-style equipment.
The National Bar Association has issued a similar agenda and calls for action in its ongoing “War on Brutality.” On the heels of this announcement, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote to reassure the country in a message entitled “Following Through After Ferguson” that he was “committed to answering the President’s call to see this through – as are the men and women of the United States Department of Justice.” For the sake of my friend and the other countless mothers in America mistrusting the men obliged to protect their children, may it be so.
Roxana Bell is an attorney at Bingham Greenebaum Doll. She concentrates her practice in the area of management-side representation in labor and employment. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are those of the author.