was once told that the decision-makers of our society often hope the public will lose interest in important issues before they are forced to do anything about them.
The devaluation of black life in the U.S. is an issue that is important to many Americans. People of color empathize with the victims of racism and their families. Our white allies see the injustices and stand beside us, hoping to help in our efforts to bring about meaningful change.
Trayvon Martin was a household name for a long time following his murder in 2012 at the hands of George Zimmerman. The public was enraged at Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013, and Florida’s Stand Your Ground law faced scrutiny as Martin remained a household name for weeks. It wasn’t long, though, before Martin’s name got lost in the shuffle.
People returned to their ordinary lives: class, work, civic organizations or family; all institutions more familiar and salient to them than the devaluation of black life in America. The fire that had so passionately burned for social justice is reduced to embers unless a new incident becomes a prodder and pokes at the coals.
So many high-profile examples of racism and discrimination have taken place in just the last few months.
The shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, was the catalyst for new conversations about racism and violence in America. People compared the case to the Martin shooting in its demonstration of the utter lack of respect for the lives of young black men.
Allies in the U.S. and around the world used social media platforms to voice their support for Brown, his family and the struggle of African-Americans for justice and equality.
The public outcry against racial profiling and suppression of the media by law enforcement made national headlines. People were vocally and visibly angry with the system.
Another African-American male, John Crawford, was recently killed while holding a toy rifle in an Ohio Wal-Mart. Ohio is a permissive open-carry state, so it would have been completely in Crawford’s rights to carry an actual gun if he had proper licensing and chose to do so. People were enraged when Crawford’s right to bear arms and his right to life were both ignored when a 911 caller falsely perceived Crawford as a threat for his possession of a BB gun.
Most recently, Darrien Hunt was killed by police officers in Utah after 911 callers described him as “suspicious” for doing nothing more than walking by their businesses on a Wednesday morning. Police shot him for brandishing what they called a sword, which his mother described as a harmless toy souvenir. Hunt’s mom, who is white, is certain that she knows why her son is dead, saying, “They killed my son because he’s black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away.”
It’s easy to be angry when stories like these are in the headlines, and this anger is important. Without it, there will never be the groundswell of public support needed to enact substantive social and political change.
However, social and racial injustice exists throughout America and manifests itself on a daily basis. To change this cycle of injustice, we must remain angry and insistent that racism in America is brought to an end.
The morning my parents left after settling me into my residence hall room for my first year at UF, I remember the warning my dad gave me. He told me to be careful and to always remember that there were things other people could get away with that I couldn’t because I am black.
That made me very angry.
Ferguson is no longer a trending topic, and the anger that Michael Brown’s shooting caused has begun to fade from the public consciousness.
Our inability to remain continuously angry about these issues is a major obstacle toward the change sought by advocates for social and racial justice.
TehQuin Forbes is a UF sociology junior. His columns appear on Mondays.
[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 9/15/2014 under the headline "Social justice requires continuous anger"]