To remember (and to act)
“Atticus–” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”
— To Kill A Mockingbird.
We passed a man standing in the center of the street, people streaming by him. His hands were up, just like many of us. Unlike those of us marching, he was silent. As the chants of ‘hands up, don’t shoot!’ filled the evening sky, tears streamed down his face. My own voice cracked and fell silent as I walked by him.
I have been thinking a lot about the death and disappearance of young people lately. Between Ferguson and Ayotzinapa, there is a disturbing message that some people’s lives matter less than others. I’m not as young as I once was, but my growing older seems unjust when there are young men and women who die at the hands of the state or from a system that was never set up to protect them.
The crowd was small when I arrived at Union Square. I came to find out the larger protest was scheduled for later in the evening, but the crowd grew over the next 30 minutes or so. There was a heavy police presence and helicopters circling in the sky, though they seemed to keep their distance, like the adult chaperones at a teenage party, watchful and present, but not interfering. Well, that analogy would work better if the parents at the teenage party were carrying guns and intimidating…..
We left Union Square and took to the streets. We marched up Broadway, bringing traffic to a standstill. We marched through Times Square and over to the Lincoln Tunnel, blocking passage over to Jersey. The crowd was mostly young, though a few older women marched nearby (‘Jews in solidarity with Ferguson’) and a few other 30-somethings still in our work clothes.
‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!’
‘No Justice! No Peace!’
There was a couple standing near me in Union Square, about my age, with their young son, sitting on his dad’s shoulders. I overheard his mom call him Max. His eyes were wide, watching the crowd, trying to understand what was going on.
‘Mama, why are they yelling?’
‘Sweetie, they’re mad. They’re expressing their anger’
‘Mama, why are they so mad?’
‘Oh, sweetie, they’re angry because the boy was killed’
I was humbled at the job these parents have in front of them to explain to their young black son the outrage of Michael Brown’s death. To try to protect Max and explain their anger and frustration at an unjust system.
I thought of a recent twitter post I saw – something to the effect of white privilege means that you can be outraged about Ferguson rather than be frightened. And I thought about little Max and I thought of the many other young men I know. As I continued down 42nd street, I thought about how I hoped that they could have that privilege some day, to not be frightened to grow older. To know that their lives matter.
So we stand here
On the edge of hell
And look out on the world
What we’re gonna do
In the face of what