The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Black lives matter’ to everyone — finally

A demonstrator protests recent grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at Boston Common in Boston on Thursday. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I am always trying to find a pony in the highest mound of filth. And the decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City to not indict police officers who killed unarmed black men have given me much to work with. That the killers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner won’t even stand trial before a jury of their peers is offensive, not only to the deceased men’s families, but also to those of us who believe in the accountability that our criminal justice system strives for.

What has been thrilling to see, most notably after Monday’s decision in the Garner case, is that Americans of all stripes have been expressing their outrage wherever they can. What has warmed my aching heart this past week has been the faces and voices of the protesters. They aren’t just African Americans fighting for their lives and hoping someone will listen, let alone care. The protesters with their signs and chants of “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe” are the gorgeous mosaic of America and cut across every demographic.

The video of Garner’s chokehold death was as horrific as it was clarifying. It was a light-bulb moment, particularly for white Americans, about how the life of a black man could be taken for little reason and with little recourse. The #CrimingWhileWhite feed on Twitter is a stunning 21st-century confessional where contributors acknowledge privileges afforded them that no African American would ever think possible. I read antics by tweeters that literally made my jaw drop because of their brazenness and my head shake because of their ability to get away with it. Folks shoplifting (or “robbing” or “knocking over stores,” as some folks like to call it in Brown’s case), driving while drunk, assaulting officers, you name it — and then getting away with it.

Yes, I have to agree with Elon James White. “It was a hard pill to swallow, reading those,” the founder of This Week in Blackness told The Post. “I’d be arrested just for thinking about it.” The backlash now unfurling under #CrimingWhileWhite is to be expected. But the motivation behind its spectacular popularity is what I take to heart. My fervent hope is that this moment we are witnessing, one of collective national outrage, leads to a sustained sense of purpose that results in lasting change. Such a lofty goal, but what did you expect from a guy always looking for a pony?

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj