Last night I took my family to see the Temple University family holiday concert and we had a blast. We were listening to the songs being played and there was this tender and most intimate of moments. A pregnant black woman sat next to me and her husband next to her with his hand on her belly. While the drums were playing and the jazz band was just knocking it out of the park, the woman was taking her husband's hand so that she could have him feel their baby kicking.
The music swelled, I saw this couple next to me and then I glanced over to my own family and thought of how lucky we were to be together, celebrating the season and enjoying the time together. The concert ended with the audience singing along to Christmas carols and I haven't had so much fun in a long time. At a time in which people are protesting throughout the United States on the chokehold death of Eric Garner and on the shooting death of Michael Brown, there is a lot of anger, frustration and distrust in our country's law enforcement.
Racism is alive and well in the United States of America, but that does not mean we throw in the towel and turn a blind eye. I am happy to see that people of all races and creeds are protesting and getting out on the streets. One of the things that I believe is the right to speak our mind, to peacefully protest and to take part in civil disobedience. The government is not going to save us. It was never meant to do that. We have the power to get up, act and make change.
My point is that there are people who are dying at the hands of our law enforcement officials and if we, as a people, believe this is wrong, then we need to get off our asses and speak about it, protest about it, tweet, write letters, do whatever is necessary (peacefully) to make change. I look at the lives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and think that their families will never get to spend Christmas with them again or celebrate birthdays or any of the other joyful times. Instead, their families will need to carry the shadow of pain and tragedy with them for many years to come.
When I think about what I'm seeing happening in America, I feel that there is hope. Not everyone is ignoring the fact that an injustice has been done. I cannot watch the video of Eric Garner being choked and brought to the ground because he was selling loose cigarettes and not get angry.
And then I think of the millions of young people in our country who are growing up in a difficult and challenging time and hope (and pray) that they will work hard to get the best education they can so that they can think for themselves. I can remember a fantastic history professor I had in college. He taught us that the public education system exists to make us good citizens. It teaches us enough so that we can go to work, come home, watch TV and not get into trouble. It was an extremely radical thing to teach kids at a Catholic college and I loved it.
One of the things that has gotten me in trouble over the years is one simple word: "Why?"
I like to question. I don't like to just shut up and go with the flow, and in America today, we need to voice our opinions. I don't want to see other Eric Garners, Michael Browns or any other people (white, black, Asian, Hispanic, native American--all races!) die needlessly. If you commit a crime, I believe you should be arrested but not killed. Arresting someone and charging them with a crime is one thing, but I am disgusted beyond words when I watch the video of Eric Garner being choked to death. When a man is not resisting arrest and is saying that he can't breathe, why would the authorities still sit on him and hold him down in a position that would make it harder for him to breathe? He had no weapon. He was accused of selling loose cigarettes. Now he is dead. Why?
There are times in life in which we cannot be silent. I believe in America and I believe in justice and freedom of speech. I believe in our first amendment right.
I am a white man who has been mugged by a black man, but that does not mean that I think all black people are bad. Some people do bad things. Some people do good. If I could say anything now, I would simply say that I want my kids to grow up in an America where injustices such as how Eric Garner was treated do not happen. I want to see the officers involved fired and I want to see federal involvement to investigate the case against those officers.
I hope and I pray that more people will speak out, to use their voices for good and to peacefully assemble and to protest. Isn't this why we're Americans? Or are we so blind that we've lost our way? I will not and cannot believe that. I believe with all my heart and mind that we, the people of America, will speak out and that justice (not revenge) will be served.
Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who knows that if it were the Cinderella in her stories involved in this, she would be standing up and protesting. She would not give up. She would have her voice be heard.