Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is this what you were waiting for? #Ferguson

photo credit: therese flanagan via photopin cc 
I have so many posts drafted about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, but I have refrained from publishing any of them. I felt everything had already had been said. But after Monday’s decision, I’ve changed my mind. 

I definitely have my opinions on Mike Brown’s death and subsequent events, and I have shared some of them on my personal Facebook account and a little bit on Twitter over the last few months. Most of my comments have been met with supportive and encouraging responses, with lots of likes, shares and retweets. However, a few people commented that they were "waiting until we have all the facts" before they formed an opinion. So now I wonder… is this what you were waiting for?  

Their desire to withhold judgment is noble, and it would do us all some good to be less judgmental. But "waiting for all facts" assumes that all the facts will eventually come to light. It assumes that the final outcome will be the right one, based on all the facts, nothing more and nothing less. Unfortunately, that's not always how our judicial system works. I'm not saying that our judicial system is corrupt; I'm saying that it is imperfect because humans are imperfect.

In the end, maybe it doesn’t matter that the Grand Jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. I suppose a trial would have been a much more expensive and time-consuming way to acquit him. We’ll probably never have enough facts to satisfy a jury, and we’ll never know Mike Brown’s side of the story. Dead men tell no tales.

We’ll also never know what really caused unarmed Mike Brown to threaten Officer Wilson in such a way that Wilson felt he had no choice but to shoot. We’ll never know what provoked such anger. I could speculate about what the officers said or did, but then again I don’t want to be accused of “sensationalizing the story” so I will keep my what-ifs to myself.

All of the finger pointing at the media also frustrates me. Of course the big networks are going to fuel the flames of this story. Ratings mean dollars, so when a story like this hits, it’s like lightning in a bottle for them. It’s just what they do, liberal and conservative alike. But no one complains about media sensationalism when a black NFL player is accused of beating his wife, and we’re about to see it again with the allegations against Bill Cosby. Let’s see how many people try to squelch that sensationalized coverage.

Another point I keep hearing that distracts from the real issue is the focus on black on black violence. Yes, that is a real and terrible problem that we must address in this country. Absolutely. We can all agree that black men need to stop killing each other. However, a black man didn’t kill Mike Brown, so it’s also entirely off topic. When you’re ready to talk about the issue at hand, let me know. 

Here’s the deal. With our nation’s sad history, race is always, always, always going to be an issue when a white man kills a black man. That’s just the way it is. I do not in any way condone the looting and violence occurring in Ferguson right now. But what did we expect? “Riots are the language of the unheard,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.

When a toddler doesn’t get what he wants, he might kick, throw and break his own toys, and scream at the top of his lungs. As illogical as it seems, that’s a toddler’s way of making himself heard, of exacting control over something when he feels he has none. I’m definitely not saying that the rioters in Ferguson are like toddlers. I’m saying that humans – of any age and maturity level – may act irrationally when they’ve had enough. Again, I am not justifying violent, lawless behavior, but when you take away the voice of an entire community, what do you expect to happen? Even Ferguson’s peaceful protests were met with riot gear.

A good friend of mine shared this article about a black father’s rules for his children, such as: never wear a hoodie, always buy something before leaving a store, etc. As a mother of two white boys, introducing such rules to my children has never even occurred to me. And that, my friends, is white privilege.

Now that the case is closed, do we really have closure? Does the decision not to indict mean we can all go back to pretending that white privilege doesn’t exist and that racism isn’t an issue in this case? Is this what you were waiting for?

Several of my tribe-mates shared what's in their hearts on this topic as well:
     Red Shutters: What to do about #Ferguson  (shares links to other great posts, too)
     Napkin Hoarder: Where do we go from here... #Ferguson
     Another Version of Mother: He was just a kid
     Busy Since Birth: All lives matter

As always, all comments are welcome, whether you agree or disagree with me. However, I request that you remain respectful with your words. Any comments that are considered hurtful, hateful or hostile will be deleted. If you cannot share your perspective peacefully, kindly share it somewhere else.