On the evening of September 30th Jonathan Bracamontes, a 16 year old high school student from Holland, Michigan was hit by a car while crossing the street on his way from getting his girlfriend chocolates and flowers. The driver, 64 year old Ruth Borgman, did not stop until she got to work (at least five minutes later) and called in only after she noticed damage to her car. She had hit something, she told the police, and it may have been a person. A sizable 16 year old young man, to be exact.
Witnesses say they saw Jonathan run into the street and, despite several protests and growing community discontent, Borgman is yet to be charged for what seems a blatant Hit-and-Run. I attended a recent protest, the third one thus far, and had the privilege to chat with some of Jonathan's family. For their overwhelming distress, they were very cordial and coy in their desires: they just wanted justice for Jonathan and, above all, to have his essential humanity recognized.
The same humanity deprived Michael Brown as he lay dead on the streets of Ferguson for four hours. The same humanity deprived Brown's family by the prosecutors who, extraordinarily, have still not reached out to them for just a word. Humanity denied Oscar Grant, shot in the back by a police officer who apparently thought he was reaching for his taser and instead got a gun while people video taped; only to receive a slap-on-the wrist sentence and only recently won a civil lawsuit filed by the victim's father. Humanity betrayed by the "Not our kids, not our problem" protesters refusing to even consider letting infants from war zones into the U.S.A.
The legal system is so drastically flawed that the underrepresented common man ill-expects it to work in his favor. That is the system. Much more disconcerting than what the law does or does not is what people will not do. If there are technicalities that may leave you legally innocent, there is no human mandate on you to call for help when you have clearly hit someone? if someone found a picture of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown throwing up a hand sign, that made their life a little less valuable? If Jonathan ran into the street upon a green light, I can drive to work and deal with that when I feel it is convenient? (In all this, it is important to remember that Jonathan died on the scene; who knows how his story would have gone had a call been placed immediately and some help got there earlier?)
Slavery. The Holocaust. Apartheid: watch and be wary of what happens each time people resign themselves to a flawed, money and caste-driven, society and legal system. If these sound hyperbolic to you, they should not; for they are nothing other than the stories of a million Jonathans that just happened concurrently: when the humanity of one - an individual or community - was deemed less important than that of others.
Alas, Jonathan was just Jonathan from Holland, Michigan. You may never hear about him or the case again. That's a shame. Whether you do or not, the story of Jonathan and others like him is important as a reflection of the society we live in, and where we are headed.
"The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”-Dr. Paul Farmer.
(For updates on the case, please 'like' the Justice for Jonathan page here)