As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn from history…are doomed to repeat it.”
You would think by now that race would not play a part in how we treat certain people, but it turns out we as a society we were wrong.
And it is because of the unfortunate deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, Jr., all of whom are African American, that we are reminded of this all too true fact.
It’s not that these people were killed, it was how they were killed that is the most concerning. Over the last couple of years, race-influenced deaths at the hands of seemingly untrained police officers (in the case of Martin, a neighborhood watch volunteer) have shown the country that we have not learned at all from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
On Feb. 16, 2012, Martin, a 12-year-old from Sanford, Fla., was shot in the chest and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. According to reports, Zimmerman called the Sanford Police to report a “suspicious-looking black male” walking down the street. Even though he was told not to pursue, Zimmerman decided to take matters into his own hands. The ending result led in a scuffle and subsequently, Martin’s death.
On July 17, 2014, in Staten Island, N.Y., Garner was walking down the streets with his friend, minding his own business when he was approached by an plain clothes officer. Garner told the cop to stop harassing him, and proceeded to walk away, when he was caught in a chokehold from behind by New York Police Department officer Daniel Panteleo. The entire incident was captured on a cellphone camera, with Garner telling the cops nine times, “I can’t breathe,” while being subdued. The cops waited seven minutes before attempting CPR, then called an ambulance to the scene. He was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
Not even a month later, on Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo., Brown got into a scuffle with Darren Wilson, an officer who was on watch patrol. Brown was shot reportedly 10 times, including four times in the head. He had barely turned 18, and had just graduated high school months before.
It’s fair to note that in the case of Garner, he had a criminal record. And in the cases of Martin and Brown, they did get into a little trouble in their childhood. But all three share the same stigma: they were African-Americans who were targeted simply for being who they are.
In all three cases, the purported shooters were all acquitted with little to no punishment. Zimmerman walked, Panteleo was only stripped of his badge and gun, and Wilson, while not punished, “resigned” from the Ferguson police department after the decision was made to acquit him…not before.
With the amount of protests and rioting that have occurred in the wake of their deaths, it seems like we have repeated history. And while the violence is not as bad as it was in the 1960s, I still have to ask one question: when does it end?
People are who they are, I get it. But when does a color of a person’s skin justify how they should be treated? It shouldn’t and unfortunately, in the cases of Zimmerman, Panteleo and Wilson, they didn’t get the message until it was too late.
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