The word conundrum should probably never apply to a historic day like Monday, Nov. 17 when a Sycamore tree was planted at the Capitol, dedicated to the memory of Emmett Till. Till is remembered as the young black teenager from Chicago who was brutally murdered by a group of white men in 1955 while visiting relatives in Mississippi. The racially-tinged circumstances surrounding his death are a permanent scar in America’s history of civil rights – and unfortunately, more of these racially-divisive moments are taking place 60 years later.
Under gray skies, outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder braved rain at the ceremony to share a few words about what Till’s death represented in the fight for civil rights and equality. The same day Holder was reminding America of Till’s tragedy, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon delivered his own speech, in which he called a state of emergency for Missouri in anticipation of a grand jury decision that would either indict or acquit Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown in August, allegedly in self-defense, which has left many protestors in Missouri skeptical.
I have no doubt that Gov. Nixon’s state of emergency was intended to protect the people of Missouri, but it’s remiss to not emphasize that the protestors, peaceful or violent, are citizens of Missouri themselves. It’s arguably more disconcerting to not look at the overwhelming displays of flagrant disrespect and tension sparked by officers who are meant to protect all Missourians since demonstrations began in August. And most importantly, let's not forget the simple and central issue behind this disruption: another young black man lost his life in a town that has a history of strife with law enforcement. The people most vulnerable to this issue are upset. The bedrock of leadership should be equality and justice for all, and ensuring that the well being and interests of all people are considered, including protestors.
Till and Brown’s individual deaths have important differences, this cannot be denied, but the question of whether justice will be served had too many African-Americans pessimistic of the outcome before a grand jury trial ever began. The timing of Till’s tree planting ceremony is a stark reminder that “the struggle” is real and that the shadow of Till’s death continues to follow young black men like Brown every day.
Corey Arvin is a Contributing Editor for Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every week on blackvoicenews.com. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com and followed on Twitter @coreyarvin.
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