After Ferguson: A Perspective from a Minority in America

…indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.                     – Pledge of Allegiance of the United States

Trayvon Martin. Unarmed teen shot to death. No conviction. Michael Brown. Unarmed teen shot six times to death. No indictment. Eric Garner. Forty three year old father of five suffocated to death. No indictment. Miyekko Durden-Bosley. Handcuffed woman punched so hard it broke her eye socket. No charges. Tamir Rice. Twelve year old boy shot on sight. Probably no charges, no indictment or no conviction. Oscar Grant. John Crawford. Jonathan Ferrell. Far too many more to count for far too long.

If you are any minority in America and this does not make you wonder if the law and government of this country is capable of basic fairness for you, you are being naive. I am certainly not black. My heritage belongs to Islam in South Asia. Sadly my myriad experiences with the power structure in this country over many years – at school, at work, out shopping, on a date, at leisure, while travelling, online, pulled over by the side of the road, at the police station, on the train, on the bus, on the plane, at the airport – has made sure I know exactly how black America feels.

We’ve talked, tweeted, posted, walked out, died in and protested – nothing much changed. The problem is all of this is far too easy to ignore since it does not affect the power structure in any fundamental way. So what now?

The best hope you have to be heard in a democracy is by making full use of your voting ballot. There’s increasingly more of us in this country that do not fit in with the power structure, there’s candidates that at least pretend to listen and sadly inadequate voter turnout actually means your vote’s effect is magnified. That’s the easy part. The much harder part is resolving to ask more of yourself and the people around you, never suffering alone and in silence and standing up for all who are oppressed much like you. As you celebrate the small victories in life don’t forget to silently thank your oppressors for compelling you to reach higher. If you are very lucky maybe you’ll even get to thank the good people that helped you on the way.

For those that do enjoy the privileges of the power structure in this country, there’s no need to see any of this as a wholesale indictment of you. Most of us have been forced to shoulder someone else’s cross and know better than that. In my case the cross I have to carry on my shoulders was placed there by people that far too often deny their own culpability in the making of that cross. Like me you can choose to own your burden. You can choose to try your best to seek out, call out and help erase the root causes of the burden you must now bear.

Published by Reza Rahman

Reza Rahman is Principal Program Manager for Java on Azure at Microsoft. He works to make sure Java developers are first class citizens at Microsoft and Microsoft is a first class citizen of the Java ecosystem. Reza has been an official Java technologist at Oracle. He is the author of the popular book EJB 3 in Action. Reza has long been a frequent speaker at Java User Groups and conferences worldwide including JavaOne and Devoxx. He has been the lead for the Java EE track at JavaOne as well as a JavaOne Rock Star Speaker award recipient. He was the program chair for the inaugural JakartaOne conference. Reza is an avid contributor to industry journals like JavaLobby/DZone and TheServerSide. He has been a member of the Java EE, EJB and JMS expert groups over the years. Reza implemented the EJB container for the Resin open source Java EE application server. He helps lead the Philadelphia Java User Group. Reza is a founding member of the Jakarta EE Ambassadors. Reza has over a decade of experience with technology leadership, enterprise architecture and consulting. He has been working with Java EE technology since its inception, developing on almost every major application platform ranging from Tomcat to JBoss, GlassFish, WebSphere and WebLogic. Reza has developed enterprise systems for well-known companies like eBay, Motorola, Comcast, Nokia, Prudential, Guardian Life, USAA, Independence Blue Cross, Anthem, CapitalOne and AAA using Java EE and Spring.

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