I do not usually weigh in on political issues, but I have something I want to get off my chest. You have been warned. And you should also probably note that I am very white and very middle class, so take my opinion on race for what it’s worth.
A lot of people in my circle feel like the indictment decision in the Ferguson case was a good and valid one. Darren Wilson had a ton of evidence to support his statement that Michael Brown attacked him first, and eyewitness accounts were inconsistent (and that’s an understatement). I don’t exactly feel like it was a wrong choice myself, if the circumstances were different and if race relations in this country were better. But race relations in this country are not as good as we pretend.
The civil rights movement is not as far away as we like to think it is. Our parents grew up in a world were lynchings and Emmet Tills happened. The Montgomery bus boycott and the Woolworth sit-ins happened less than 20 years before I was born. The civil rights movement happened yesterday; and it happened in part because yesterday, when a black man killed a white man, there were no consequences.
It is counter-intuitive, but whether Darren Wilson is guilty matters not one whit to the question of whether there should be a trial or not. Do we not owe it to Emmet Till and the hundreds of black Americans killed in this country to take this matter to a courtroom? Do we not allow a jury of 12 peers to say ‘innocent,’ instead of only a white prosecutor and a white judge? I think we need to. And the fact that this won’t happen now is a tragedy with real consequences. The verdict may not be Jim Crow, but it sure smells like it. And that is why people are angry.
I am lucky, because I get to be outraged at the wave of black men being shot in the streets. I do not have to be both outraged and fearful that my children will be gunned down next. I stand in spirit with those on the streets of Ferguson. Your protests are valid; you deserved your day in court.
There has been a lot of death and dying in the world lately. I know that there usually is, but it isn’t such a presence in our lives as it has been in mine this past week. Robin Williams was a man who inserted himself and his comedy into my life so I didn’t realize how much he was there. Lauren Bacall was also someone I admired greatly. She was strong, beautiful, and managed to make a Hollywood marriage work (with a lot of help from Bogey, I’m sure).
The news from Ferguson is so disturbing. I thought we had seen the worst of this kind of thing in the 1960s, with maybe a small reprise during the LA riots. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/michael-brown-ferguson-missouri-timeline/14051827/ explains the situation pretty well, but it doesn’t touch on the many eyewitnesses who said that Michael Brown was not reaching for the officer’s gun. It also doesn’t mention the tens of journalists arrested for reporting the story. I’m sure that I am one of a crowd of people when I say that my strongest feeling about Ferguson is hopelessness. This world is exploding, and I don’t have any real hope that America will be able to address this in a way that is reasoned. I hope for hope.
The last thing is something I’m probably not supposed to talk much about. But it hit very close to home. An alumna of the college I work for was murdered by her son this week. I am new here and hadn’t met her, but she was an avid volunteer and often came to reunions. To say it was a blow was an understatement.
I know that the knowledge of death is supposed to allow us to relish life. I can spout Ursula K. LeGuin quotes about candles and darkness all you want. What all of that doesn’t explain is the tragedy of many of those deaths.
I am realizing as I write this that I have no points to make about the above statements. I’m feeling sad, disturbed, and a bit frightened, and I didn’t want the moment to pass without comment. I hope we can find a way to move forward from this week that is constructive.