In case you missed it and have not heard, on Thursday, March 5, the popular television show “Scandal” ran an episode that was inspired by the events that happened in Ferguson, Mo., when an unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a police officer. As a nation, we have been overwhelmed in recent years by similar incidents of unarmed African Americans being murdered by police officers and ordinary citizens, presumably because of the way they looked and the fear those looks created in the eyes of the beholder of the weapons that would end their lives. In most cases, there has been no justice, no accounting for this loss of life. In a few incidents, like with Jordan Davis, the perpetrators have gone to jail for something other than murder. In all cases, we have been left with a sick feeling of déjà vu. A feeling that just like during the times of slavery and segregation, the lives of African Americans are worth less than the lives of others. We know that this is not true, that this is a lie perpetrated by people who were intent on justifying their own greed. But, these incidents have opened wounds that have never healed and reminded us that we have a long way to go for true equality and justice to reign in this land of the free and home of the brave.
The truth is that we have not often been brave in addressing issues of race and racism and the impact it has had on the soul and psyche of America. However, in an episode titled, “Lawn Chair,” Shonda Rhimes and the cast of Scandal tackled with courage this difficult and heart-wrenching topic.
But, it was really hard to watch. As soon as I realized what the episode was about, I immediately sent my sister a text and then posted on Facebook that it was too soon for me to watch a fictional account of this ripped-from-the-headlines story. I didn’t think I could make it until the end. I was overwhelmed with emotion and as much as is possible for someone who did not personally know Michael Brown or Renisha McBride or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis, I was re-living a traumatic loss of loved ones and feeling hopeless because there was nothing I could do to change the outcomes for them.
Yet, I couldn’t turn the channel. I don’t think I even moved or at least not very much. I watched and watched and at the end I openly sobbed. I wept because for the fictional Brandon Parker and his father, Clarence (played superbly by Courtney Vance), there was justice at the end of their story; and in a strange way that surprised me, I felt a sense of hope that there would be justice for those who have yet to receive it. I wept because I was frustrated that Olivia Pope nor Judy Smith or someone like them was not in Ferguson or Staten Island or Cleveland or Sanford, Fla., and even videotape was not enough in real life for a conviction. I wept because neither Eric Holder nor anyone else was able to find that video, email or witness that was needed to settle the matter so that there was justice for these real-life families. I wept because in every fiber of my being I want justice for those for whom justice seems fleeting and I don’t know where justice can be found. I cannot believe we don’t have laws that protect people from being murdered for the way they look. It hurts and is just hard to believe that this kind of discrimination is allowed to happen in 2015. Perhaps most of all, I wept because while art is supposed to imitate life, in this case I was longing for life to imitate art. Well, maybe one day.
Maybe not so coincidentally, today marks the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday when protesters fighting for the right to vote lost their lives attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma, Ala. I am thinking about words that Congressman John Lewis uttered recently during an event I attended. “We are in the struggle of a lifetime to redeem the soul of America and to create a more perfect union,” he said. Congressman Lewis went on to say, “When you want to give up, have an executive session with yourself. Keep pressing on, pushing and pulling. Don’t lose hope.”
So, after sobbing my way through Scandal, I had an executive session with myself. Self: Get it together! It’s not over yet, not while you’re still here. Don’t lose hope. Then I decided, again, that I would keep pressing, pushing and pulling until one day is today.
I hope we all find the courage that Rhimes found, the courage to call a foul…even when it might cost us some followers. Remember your tears. May they drive your fight for justice. Let it be so.