After another night of chaos in Ferguson, Missouri -- with 31 arrests and reports this morning of multiple shootings -- the nation seems no closer to coming to terms with the latest police killing of an unarmed black teenager. It wasn't that long ago that the national media had converged on Florida for the same reason, when an unarmed Miami teen named Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a wannabe neighborhood watchman.
This morning, Martin's mom, Miami resident Sybrina Fulton, has penned a wrenching letter in Time to the parents of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whose death has sparked the Ferguson unrest. Fulton has a simple message for the Browns about their sons: "Neither of their lives shall be in vain."
The letter points out the obvious echoes between the two cases as well as the all-too-predictable path the media narrative has already taken, as pundits -- fueled by reports that Brown had recently shoplifted cigars -- speculate endlessly about whether he was a "bad kid" who somehow deserved his early death sentence.
The same happened to Trayvon Martin's family, who endured endless internet rumors that he was a "thug" or a criminal who had brought on his own death while trying to walk home to his dad's house in a Central Florida suburb.
"Facts, myths, and flat-out lies are already out there in Michael's case. Theories, regardless of how ridiculous, are being pondered by the pundits," Fulton writes. "Honor your son and his life, not the circumstances of his alleged transgressions. I have always said that Trayvon was not perfect. But no one will ever convince me that my son deserved to be stalked and murdered. No one can convince you that Michael deserved to be executed."
Worse than the character assassinations, she writes, is the fact that justice will be exceedingly difficult to find. Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for shooting the teen.
"Further complicating the pain and loss in this tragedy is the fact that the killer of your son is alive, known, and currently free," she writes. "In fact, he is on paid administrative leave. Your own feelings will bounce between sorrow and anger."
But Fulton says the Browns can become a force for good amid the tragedy; Fulton has started a foundation in honor of Trayvon that helps families who lose children to gun violence.
Brown's death will force change, Fulton promises:
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But know this: neither of their lives shall be in vain. The galvanizations of our communities must be continued beyond the tragedies. While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy. If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us. Some will mistake that last statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children. We will no longer be ignored. We will bond, continue our fights for justice, and make them remember our children in an appropriate light. I would hate to think that our lawmakers and leaders would need to lose a child before protecting the rest of them and making the necessary changes NOW...