I’m sitting in LAX waiting for my delayed flight home from a really good two week holiday with my family, but my heart is heavy.
For the past couple of days, I’ve watched the flurry unfold on TV and social media from the shock and dismay over Robin Williams’ alleged suicide to the platform for public awareness and support of people with depression and helping them with suicide prevention.
Bravo, I say. It’s about time. I still consider my own past dealings with depression a dirty little secret I rarely discuss because of the stigma of shame that used to exist for depression sufferers.
I too loved Robin Williams as an entertainer. A love that started with the “Nanu, nanu, Mork from Ork” antics of an 80’s sitcom, all the way through his career.
Yet, my heart is hurting for a different reason.
My heart is breaking for a different man – one who didn’t go to Julliard and didn’t have the world wrapped around his waggling, slapstick finger with his talents. A man who perhaps made a mistake or two, or was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or simply was born into the wrong skin colour in the wrong state.
Michael Brown was an unarmed man, who according to some eyewitness reports, had both hands raised begging police not to shoot him when he was ignored and shot repeatedly to death anyway.
Where is the media frenzy about THAT, I ask?
Don’t misunderstand my intentions here.
BOTH of these stories warrant media focus.
BOTH of these men deserve recognition.
BOTH of the underlying causes for these tragedies are worthy of public outcry, awareness and support.
It’s just that ONE of these stories is not like the other.
ONE of these stories is about a black man who didn’t want to die but was murdered anyway, presumably because of the racist beliefs of the police officer that shot him, in a state that was once a hotbed of racism.
Am I making assumptions here that haven’t been proven by the “police investigation pending”?
Are my assumptions based on historical fact, hard evidence and my own awareness of countless other black men and women who have been discriminated against, some murdered as well?
I’m really happy that the public opinion of depression and suicide is shifting. I’m relieved to see the stigma that was once attached to mental illness dissipating and a social tenderness developing towards sufferers of these conditions.
But what I can’t understand for the life of me is why the media and society in general keeps turning a blind eye away from the blatant racism that is occurring in law enforcement and the judicial system? Why don’t these tragic episodes also receive the same media focus and empathy?
Oh sure – the networks and newspapers have all done their due diligence in cursory coverage of what happened to Michael Brown, it hasn’t been completely ignored.
But how many more innocent, unarmed black men or women will die before the world decides that their burden also deserves the same sympathy, empathy, assistance and support as celebrities suffering from addiction or mental illness?
The world at large may be content with the facade of a “police investigation” used to buy time for construction of a careful patchwork quilt of excuses and explanations, but I’m not. I know how this story ends. The same way it did for Trayvon Martin. The same way it did for Jonathan Ferrell, a young black man who was seriously injured in a car accident and managed to get to a nearby residence and ring the doorbell to ask for help but was shot and killed by police summoned by the homeowner who only saw a bloody black man at her front door. The same way it did for so many other black men and some women who have been murdered with flimsy or no excuse, whose names you wouldn’t recognize even if I did share them here.
When are we going to stand up as a group of people called humanity and voice our disagreement?
One love, people.
One love means equal treatment for ALL people. It sounds great in theory and is certainly an aspiration, but we just aren’t there yet.
Instead of being satisfied with the bullshit cover stories fed to you by law enforcement and judicial agencies, broaden your support and understanding to include people who are discriminated against.
Racism is every bit as painful and tragic as depression and mental illness – let’s stop accepting it as one of society’s remaining dirty little secrets.