In August 2014, Mike Brown, a young Black male, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a White officer. Stop.

His death enflamed active concerns and brought life to dormant concerns of the disparate and unjust treatment of Black Americans. Stop.

His killer was not indicted during a grand jury trial process. Stop.

Without hesitance and without question, this is all I know about the Michael Brown case. However, if we are to speak of someone’s life without qualifiers, isn’t it enough to know that a young man is dead. Not killed, not murdered, not assassinated, not “lost his life” — just dead. Isn’t that enough?

No one persons life exists in isolation. I understand that. But no one persons life can be more or less worthless. Worth is a matter of judgment and we need to be careful to not judge a persons worth but instead judge their product without relation to their humanity. (Top 10 lists of people who have died are disgusting.)

Consider the Mike Brown case. If he had robbed a store, does that make his life worthless and deserving of death? Should he have instead embezzled millions of dollars? If he had provoked an altercation between himself and the police, does that make his life worthless? Should he have instead subjected himself to the possibility of police brutality and degradation?

My sadness stems from his death. A person has died and that is a sad event. But my anger stems from the alternatives. What was he to do? What was Trayvon Martin to do? What was Eric Garner to do? What was Oscar Grant to do?

This is the question that continues to spark anger, fear, research, protests, and change. I hope that in asking the question “what were we to do,” we are able to question and restructure our many disparate and unjust systems.

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