Jury duty. That dreaded piece of mail that induces anxiety and panic among every American citizen. Such feelings are probably due the unplanned disruption in the rhythm of life to potentially determine the fate of another human being. What if you get sucked into a 5 day murder trial? The possibility is unsettling.
However, when I was first selected, I was actually excited. I could finally see a trial in real life! Right off the bat, I was selected for a cocaine possession case. The defendant was arrested in that part of town where you double check that your doors are locked, and you hit the gas a little harder than you should. Although the police didn’t find the cocaine on his person, it was found nearby on the side of the road after he ran from the cops. We found him guilty and sent him right back to the jail that he had just left for other drug related charges. As time has gone on, I’ve often wondered what would have happened if he was white, if he had a better lawyer, if he was actually innocent. I think about him even more during these media storms: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the news stories of thousands of young men who die every year by gunfire, accidental or otherwise.
While the media fixates on fanning the flames of the racism and police brutality, how are we as American citizens ultimately affected by violent protests in part of the country that many of us have never visited? What our society often forgets, or chooses to ignore, is that there are systems in place that keep groups of citizens in certain areas and the only way to get out is by luck or remarkable determination. As evidenced by the seemingly over the top reaction to a petty thief’s shooting death. Protests and violence never just happen, they are the result of years of pent up frustration with injustice. For example, the Occupy Wall Street protests were a response to years of abuse by the banking system that sent our once thriving country into a recession that we are still recovering from.
Now that the molotov cocktails have been put away and a civil rights lawsuit is being filed, will the fiery conversations and artistic performances come to an end? Will we continue to ignore the injustices our system encourages? Or have we gained a collective understanding that there is something very wrong with our system and we have the power to address it?