Wednesday saw a group of people gather in Pembroke for the second annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women event. They marched and they shed tears while raising awareness of the scourge of violence against American Indian women, many of whom have disappeared, probably never to be seen again, and many others whose deaths will remain a mystery and a source of lasting sorrow for family members who may never know justice.
The event participants ended their march at Milton Hunt Memorial Park, where they listened to speeches, were witness to impassioned pleas to raise their voices on behalf of people whose voices have been silenced, to speak out so victims will not be forgotten and to take action to end violence against the innocent.
One speaker was Robeson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Matt Demery. The detective shared troubling numbers that illustrated how chillingly pervasive the problem, which grips the entire nation in an icy fist, is in Robeson County. Demery said the Sheriff’s Office handled 159 homicide cases involving American Indian men and women between 2008 and 2020. Seventeen of those cases have yet to be solved. The Sheriff’s Office also has five unsolved cases involving missing American Indian women.
Robeson County District Attorney Matt Scott also spoke to the gathered seekers of awareness and justice. He brought up one reason why law enforcement find it hard to solve the cases about which Demery spoke.
“I would say the number one reason we cannot solve and prosecute these cases is because people will not talk. People will not communicate. People won’t tell what they know,” Scott said. “I can’t tell you the number of cases my office has to dismiss, and I say dismissed, because we don’t have witnesses to take the stand and testify to the facts of what happened. It’s every week. Every week.”
Silence. It’s a mute wall that stands between victims and their grieving families and justice. Silence. It’s a recalcitrant barrier reinforced by fear and distrust that can’t be breached by law enforcement without the people’s willing help.
This silence is something learned. It is planted and grows in the souls of people of all colors and backgrounds who have been taught not to trust the men and women wearing badges, and anyone who doesn’t look, believe and live as they do.
And this rampart must be torn down. But that won’t happen until children are taught to respect law enforcement. They don’t have to told to love them, just to see them as people who can help them in their time of need, to recognize them as people who can find justice for a loved one.
Talk to the cops, and by doing so learn to see them as humans and not monsters, and maybe help find justice for a victim of crime.
Not all cops are angels. But the vast majority are decent human beings who want to put bad people behind bars.
And while we’re at it, let’s start looking at one another without prejudice. Let’s teach ourselves to see our shared humanity, our common desire to live our lives in peace and to chase our dreams unfettered and free of fear, distrust and bigotry. Let’s learn to speak to one another with respect and to see our neighbors with clear minds and eyes, and not through filter of color.
If we do that, maybe then we can find justice for the innocent and peace for all.