Amid all the endless noise, remember a life was lost

The heartfelt letter Sybrina Fulton penned to Michael Brown's family reminds us that Brown was a human being whose life mattered.

That sentiment seems to be missing from the cacophony of voices weighing in on the latest cop killing of a young black man to make national headlines.

"Michael is much more than a police/gun violence case; Michael is your son. A son that barely had a chance to live," Fulton wrote in an open letter published by Time Magazine. "Our children are our future, so whenever any of our children — black, white, brown, yellow, or red — are taken from us unnecessarily, it causes a never-ending pain that is unlike anything I could have imagined experiencing."

Fulton lost her son Trayvon Martin in 2012, when neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot the 17-year-old in what Fulton calls an act of "senseless gun violence."

The protesters in Ferguson, Mo. demanding justice for Brown are no different than those who took to the streets of Sanford, demanding Zimmerman's arrest.

They want the lives of young black men to matter.

"Honor your son and his life, not the circumstances of his alleged transgressions." Fulton wrote. "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."

Brown's killing, like Trayvon's, has been turned into a debate about race because Darren Wilson, the cop who shot him, is white. Many, including a member of my family, have asked why there aren't similar protests when blacks kill other blacks.

The fact is most black murder victims die at the hands of a black person. And most white murder victims die at the hands of a white person. And in the majority of these cases, an arrest is made. At the very least, police conduct an investigation.

The protests over Brown's death, as were the protests over Martin's, are about the perceived inequities of a justice system that has historically placed little to no value on black lives.

The Ku Klux Klan once counted police and judges among its members. Just last month, two Fruitland Park, Fla. police officers left the department after an FBI report connected them to the Klan.

A Missouri chapter of the Klan is raising money to support Wilson, noting on Facebook that "all money will go to the cop who did his job against the Negro criminal."

Ferguson, like Sanford, has a history of racial tensions between its mostly white police force and its black residents. People of color have good reason for distrusting law enforcement.

Remember that Sanford police didn't charge Zimmerman, claiming he was immune from arrest because of Florida's stand your ground law.

If it weren't for those protests — in Sanford and across the country — Gov. Scott probably would not have appointed a special prosecutor, and Zimmerman would not have stood trial.

The protesters in Ferguson want the same. For Wilson to be held accountable for the life he took. It may turn out the shooting was justified. But we can't blame the residents of Ferguson for thinking otherwise.

Brown, like Martin was unarmed. And, like Martin, he was not committing a crime when he was shot.

When attorney Jack Brigance wanted to convince an all-white jury to acquit a black man for killing the white men who raped, beat and left his young daughter for dead in the movie, A Time to Kill, he did so by getting the jurors to see the victim as one of them.

"Can you see her? " he asked. "I want you to picture that little girl. Now imagine she's white."

 The jury acquitted his client because they recognized the victim's humanity.

 When George Zimmerman's jury acquitted him in Martin's death, black people across America wept because they felt their humanity had been denied.

As the details of Michael Brown's death unfold, let's not forget that he was one of us.

All of us.

Rhonda Swan is a former editorial writer for the Palm Beach Post. She can be reached at

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