Skip to content

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.

IMG_0910

_______

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!’

IMG_0907

_______

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.

IMG_0908

_______

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.

IMG_0904

_______

So we stand here
On the edge of hell
In Harlem
And look out on the world
And wonder
What we’re gonna do
In the face of what
We remember.
-Langston Hughes

 

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mary Lou Reid #

    Aurora, a Grand Jury…composed of a random mix of citizens as required by law…and part of a very small group who know ALL the evidence – unlike us – acquitted a man who they did not believe was even guilty of manslaughter. While I believe that some men may be victims, this particular man was not. To bring attention to unfairness in a case that actually was unfair makes sense. I don’t understand why anyone would use this particular case to make a point. I feel it’s troublesomely divisive and has caused many people in Ferguson their livelihood. If people were getting excited about the thugs that caused the damage, I’m understand.

    November 26, 2014
  2. This is an excellent introspective look at your thoughts on this issue and protest experience.

    November 26, 2014
    • Aurora #

      Thanks Tom.

      November 26, 2014
  3. Kenn Kushner #

    A Grand jury is not a trial jury. An officer (a man) feared for his life and shot another man. If the situation was reversed and the officer had been shot because the young man feared for his life you can guarantee that the young man would have had his day in court.

    November 26, 2014
    • Aurora #

      yep. pretty much.

      November 26, 2014
  4. Mary Lou Reid #

    I read your articles. Again, people can spew conjuncture as much as they want. I don’t, in general, find the authors of the above articles credible. Most importantly, they were not on the Grand Jury. They did not hear the testimony and weren’t part of the lawful process. The members of the jury who did hear ALL the testimony, including three black members, did not find evidence to convict Darren Wilson of anything. Under a microscope, the system worked. Several witnesses did corroborate Wilson’s testimony. We know that the ones who didn’t had stories that differed from one another. The focus needs to be on this case, not some potential or imaginary case. I still question the wisdom of protesting the Michael Brown case. The truth is that he was a stoned, aggressive thief who put someone else’s life at risk. I applaud protesting real injustice, but I don’t condone using this particular case to stir the pot. I trust the jury spoke truthfully. Where are the protests against the thugs who destroyed a huge piece of Ferguson, who put lives at danger by firing shots? Where is the justice for these innocent people? Where is the outrage?

    November 28, 2014
    • Aurora #

      Well, even if you don’t agree with the articles, it doesn’t take away the fact that a grand jury is not a trial jury (different roles) – and they should not have heard all the testimony. That is not their job (as reported by many bodies – even the National Bar Association – http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/25/1347398/-National-Bar-Association-calls-for-Federal-Charges-against-Darren-Wilson).

      If this had gone to trial, then the jury could have decided guilty or not – as that would be their job. You’re right, Mary Lou, I don’t know all the facts. However, I do get to protest that the system did not work in this instance in order for there to be a fair trial.

      November 28, 2014
      • Mary Lou Reid #

        Don’t you get it? You ma;y not have liked the verdict, but the jury DID decide “not guilty”. It WAS a jury. They DID have all the evidence. Tons of it. With so much attention in particular, I trust they did their job to the best of their ability. That’s the way the system was meant to work to protect all of our citizens. “Civil rights was not won with the protest, it was won with the all the people engaged in process”. Juan William. Insulting and then assaulting a police officer was not OK.

        November 28, 2014
        • Aurora #

          I appreciate that we are just going to disagree about this. Disagreeing doesn’t mean that I ‘don’t get it’ – it just means that we view this differently.

          All I wish was that there was a trial – with opportunities for cross examination – which is a fundamentally American institution (and wonderful one at that). However, most often when a police officer shoots someone, it does not go past a grand jury. This is a systemic issue – not a one time occurrence.

          November 28, 2014
          • Mary Lou Reid #

            Peace….and Happy Holidays….

            November 28, 2014
  5. Carol Kushner #

    Aurora, your eloquence is impressive, and I am not just saying this because I am your mother and because I agree with you in this case. I believe you have expressed your feelings very truthfully and concisely. Good writing.

    November 30, 2014

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: