Two weeks ago today, a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri.
People and organizations have responded with shock, outrage, and solidarity, especially as the police have met the community’s nightly protests with rubber bullets, tear gas, and assault rifles.
But for us, as young people leading Gay-Straight Alliance clubs across the country – including in St. Louis – this murder did not come as a shock. We know what it is to be criminalized and we are outraged, but our outrage is not restricted to the Ferguson town limits or even the police force.
Michael Brown’s murder is one of many tragic expressions of a system that we fight to survive under every day. It is a system rooted in a historic pattern of racism, violence against the black community, as well as homophobia and transphobia. It is a system that criminalizes young people, pushing us out of school and into incarceration or death.
We do not only stand in solidarity with the community of Ferguson; we stand in active resistance to the systems of oppression that killed Michael Brown, terrorize his community, and have a devastating effect on all of our lives.
This system affected Michael Brown long before August 9th. He attended a high school that, with its alarmingly high suspension rate, treats its almost entirely black student population as a problem that cannot be solved, only removed. He survived this school only to be murdered by the state before he could continue his education. As his community responds to his murder in anguish and protest, the town has shut down its schools, denying even more youth an education and a meal that many count on.
This year, youth of color will make up the majority of students in public schools in the United States. As a community, we are no stranger to police violence and injustice, particularly against our trans sisters of color. GSAs must take part in the national conversation happening on social media and mobilize to support Ferguson and the youth whose schools are closed. But most importantly, we must reflect on how our own communities fit into this system, organize against the criminalization of young people in our own towns, and fight back against the school-to-prison pipeline in our own states and across the country.