I Still Remember

In a spectacularly unsurprising new revelation, word has come forth that Mike Brown, the teenager killed in an encounter with [former] police officer Darren Wilson, is not the ruthless criminal “thug” the media originally painted him out to be. The events surrounding his murder aren’t as simplistic as the narratives the media hammered into the public’s consciousness.

But I knew that. We knew that.

“Stranger Fruit”, a documentary by Jason Pollock, aims to debunk this narrative, one initially regurgitated throughout the mainstream News, internet chat forums, the usual talking heads, and even the Prosecutor, who spent so much time castigating Brown in statements that you’d imagine he was working for the defense. It’s in this same spirit of relative apathy that a Prosecutor has already claimed the footage is “immaterial”, as though this information deliberately withheld by the police would not have fundamentally changed their characterization of Brown as a violent and reckless thief had they chosen to release it as well.

But I knew that. We knew that.

Unlike Nazis who get punched and mass murderers who get the Death penalty, we Black folk and other people of color are often not afforded the same amount of sympathy when it comes to any imperfections we have, no matter how minuscule. We work twice as hard to get twice as less, and a single blemish invalidates our existence. Like Brown, even Tamir, and countless men and women, our imperfections — often unrelated — become our executioners, while those who’ve survived brutalities are entreated to humanize their oppressors, usually with an MLK jr. quote or two thrown into the mix to patronize us.

We don’t get to be unapologetically angry; we’re not given a space to vent. We can only forgive, and with the gradual erosion of our memories from the social consciousness of this nation, we’re expected to forget them. And then of course, like Brown, we’ve seen these victims’ voices stolen to tell stories for them, their original testimonies discredited.

But I knew that. We knew that.

There’s an incredible sense of irony I’ve noticed, in the general public suddenly deciding that Brown’s life had worth given the latest information. I suspect that they don’t realize this dilemma themselves: that their sudden change in perspective subconsciously signifies that they only perceive Black lives that are pure — or at the very least, “acceptable” — as worthy of justice and/or due process. But the hashtag isn’t “Respectable Black Lives Matter” nor is it “Polite Black Lives Matter,” and it’s most certainly not “Perfect Black Lives Matter”. Thus, this revelation and newfound wave of empathy comes with a fairly strong but bittersweet tone. The footage only reveals what we already knew, the same way Bryant’s confession revealed what we already knew.

As with Martin, Boyd, Rice, Anderson, Gaines, Castile, Smith, and countless others, I see these articles about Brown appearing and have to remind myself that these same folks are the ones who taught me that killers not only have many names and faces, but also many methods. Killers are not only brutalizers who unleash a hail of bullets while “fearing” for their lives; they’re ideologues adhering to destructive policies that disenfranchise millions of people, akin to gerrymandering and exclusionary healthcare replacements.

I learned that skillfully-planted words, alike propaganda, can kill a memory; a powerful narrative, no matter how false, can erase one’s history. Express silence can protect the guilty and overwhelm its victims. So it is that I see all of these people now fawning over Pollock’s film, brimming with righteous outrage, who expect me to forget the time they symbolically exhumed Brown’s body and put him on trial again in their coverage of his case. He most certainly was not the first to suffer this fate, nor the last.

I scanned the headlines and absorbed every detail while remembering that these were the same people that caricatured protestors in Ferguson as senseless vandals despite the majority of their protests being peaceful, with a small portion often spurned into violence by the same militarized forces that supposedly serve and protect our communities. Perhaps their chief concern, as their actions indicate, demonstrates that they’re chiefly invested in serving and protecting themselves instead of the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

But I knew that. We knew that.

So I still remember Mike Brown. I remember the stories those dearest to him told, narratives about his dreams and accomplishments. I remember the tragedies turned into celebrations of life, promises to preserve what was already known so that it wouldn’t be forgotten. I remember the scars his beloved endured despite the trials that they faced. I remember remembering. I remember to tell his story and many others, so that their legacy will live again.