i am not black. i don't live in st. louis (anymore). i've never been a cop. i have a lot less insight into the situation in ferguson than a lot of people i know. i hesitate to write a blog post about it - it feels presumptuous to think that i have something to add to the conversation. but it feels worse not to say anything.
1. despite what a lot of white people think, we have a major racism problem in our country. the ferguson situation is a very stark reminder of this in many ways, but the problem is much bigger and deeper than that. still, it is a good opportunity to think and talk about these issues.
2. in the first few days after michael brown was killed, a lot of news stories mentioned what a good kid he was and that he was about to start college. that irritated me because it implied that being a 'good kid' is relevant to whether one has a right not to get murdered by the police. i don't care if you're lazy, mean, bigoted, smell bad, or work for an evil corporation. you have a right to your own life, at the very least, and to not being harrassed, threatened, and abused by the police. sure enough, when footage of michael brown shoving a store clerk came out, along with other evidence that he was less-than-perfect, people started talking about that. as if it was relevant. john oliver is right, it's irrelevant. if we continue to talk about victims of racism and police violence as if their moral purity is relevant to whether they deserve to be victimized, it reinforces the view that these fundamental rights don't apply to everyone - that some of us deserve life and freedom more than others.
3. the way the police reacted to the protests in ferguson is completely insane. i don't understand how anyone could not be completely appalled by the michael brown shooting itself, but if for some reason you weren't, then maybe the accounts of some cops' behavior during the protests will do the trick* (and this is leaving aside the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and sonic cannons - which are a violation of our constitutional rights). the fact that police officers would act this way when they know that the whole world is watching makes me realize just how unaccountable some of them feel to the people they are supposed to serve. of course being a cop is a very very difficult job, but i'm not sure that's relevant. we need to find a way to recruit and train cops who can do this difficult job without violating people's basic human rights. there has to be a way. (some good suggestions here).
4. i think it is amazing that people aren't more angry. i don't necessarily think that anger is a productive reaction. i think peaceful protest is probably much better, much more likely to lead to change. but i think it is almost superhuman not to be angry.** imagine watching this happen in your neighborhood in broad daylight ten days after michael brown was killed (watch it with the sound on), and ask yourself how calm and peaceful you would feel. i can't imagine. the question is not why some people are angry, the question is how can anyone remain calm? i am in awe of all the peaceful protesters, activists, etc. i don't think many of us appreciate just how exceptional it is for all of these people to be resisting the urge to get mad, or give up.
i'm not sure what we can do. but i think talking about it, not shying away from facing this very serious problem in our society, is a first step. also, you can donate to the michael brown memorial fund here:
also, read this article:
"It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear."
* there were almost not enough words in that clause to link to all the horrendous stories i wanted to link to.
** i am not known for my extreme emotions. some might even call me serene.