If you're black and want to protest against the police killing unarmed black men, prepare to be shot at

One year on from Michael Brown's death and we're still just moving targets

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The Independent Online

It's been one year now since the death of the 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot and killed in Ferguson after stealing some cigarillos from a gas station.

On Sunday the city marked this anniversary by protesting, and the police's response has made two things clear, if they weren't clear enough already. Firstly, the police haven't learned anything in the last year (although had we ever expected them to?). While the #BlackLivesMatters movement has grown and adapted in response to the 184 black Americans who have died from police-inflicted wounds in just the last year, they've stayed right where they are. Black people are challenging us? Bring out the tear gas, threaten them with violence – shoot first, ask questions later.

Secondly, if you're black and want to protest the police shooting unarmed African Americans, then prepare to be shot at. Prepare to be killed by the people you're asking to stop killing you.

But if you don't ask then you don't get. So they marched in Ferguson. And along came the gunshots. And more gunshots. One activist who was there said that he no longer felt the usual adrenaline rushes anymore. That hearing bullets fly by felt normal.

Then one of the bullets found a target. Someone was on the ground, bleeding. And cops were standing around him pointing their guns.

The man filming it was arrested.

There was chaos. And more chaos.

Another lesson, which you should probably already know: if you’re a black American then you're also a human target. A human target marked for violence and death. Sure, you are a human being to some, a relative, a student, a teacher, a lover, all kinds of humanising things. But we are always targets.

It doesn't matter if you're protesting or not. You could be shot after being stopped for a broken tail light, and running because you're scared. You could be 12-years-old and playing with a toy gun. You could be Christian Taylor, Eric Garner or Freddy Gray. You could be any of the 184 black Americans shot dead by police in the last year.

We spend entire generations striving and fighting and acting and performing in roles we have thought would cloak us from the target practice. Some of us have tried the other extreme. Straight Outta Compton is coming to cinemas this month, and shows what happens when young black men living in the ghettoes turn their status as an exploited underclass into a successful business. But so far, no real solution has presented itself. We’ve changed, but the times haven’t. And no matter how much we try to redefine ourselves, in the eyes of the police black is black, just as night follows day.

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