Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ferguson

Wow.  Just.  Wow.

For the past week or so, I've spent at least a little bit of time each night riveted to the TV and following people's comments via social media.  This morning, I found myself awake at about 2:00 am watching the police captain's press conference.

What a genuinely decent man.  He didn't cause this.  It struck me that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons, and also what happens when there is a total breakdown in trust and relationships.  What's happening now, I think, reflects the breakdown of relationships and trust between the people of Ferguson and those entrusted with governing and policing the community.

Whether it takes a day or a few weeks, the nightly chaos in Ferguson will, indeed, end.  Even though that seems like the main thing right now, that's actually the easy thing.  The harder thing, the thing we still haven't figured out as a nation- is race relationships and power (political, economic, and judicial) relationships within the context of race.

The sad truth is that it is not hard to find examples of excessive force being applied to people of color, but it is very uncommon to find people of color, in power, using excessive force against white people.  That excessive force can be a tragic and sensational event like the loss of life in Ferguson, but it can also be found in the more mundane statistics of poverty, unemployment, incarceration, etc.

Every major storyline has the same list of characters- and "opportunists" always play a leading role.  In this case- opportunists vary from the petty criminals doing the looting and acts of violence to some leaders looking to make a name to some journalists looking for fame.  Complex storylines also always carry enough varying details to allow anyone to pull out a few things that could fit any ideology.  In other words, we all need to be careful that we aren't just "Seeing what we want to see."

In my opinion, the main thing is that another young life has been lost, needlessly.  The young life once again belonged to someone with dark skin.  As great as this nation is, and as honorable as the vast majority of police are, and as much as we white folks want to think that we live in a 'post-racial' society that affords equal opportunity and equal consequences- sorry, we've got to come to terms with the fact that there is still much work to be done. 

Those of us- like me- who have reaped many benefits from this nation, from growing up when we did, where we did, with the parents we did, and with the support of our communities; we need to find ways to pay it forward.  And those ways need to be more focused on opportunities for all.

I'm not calling for a new government program or more money.  That's not going to solve this.  We need to engage with and support people in other racial communities in ways that we haven't done yet.  Or, at least, haven't done as systemically and consistently as we should. 

In other words, the story isn't about that one police officer, or the looters, or the local or national leaders, or even Michael Brown.  The story is about our willingness to look inward, reflect, and make changes in our own ways of doing business.