Tuesday, November 25, 2014

a few thoughts on ferguson, and what you can do to help

I've been reading over updates and postings about the grand jury's decision to not charge Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown, and I don't even know what to say. I see a lot more people speaking out on facebook than I've seen before, so that feels like progress. And yet this whole thing is still so disappointing, so heartbreaking. I've seen comments that make my blood boil.

"What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Wouldn't Mike Brown like to know?
"Those looters are thugs, destroying property like that!" And taking a life doesn't matter?
"The riots just show mob mentality, no one respects your position when you act like that." Yeah well, no one's seemed to respect their position after 3 months of peaceful protests, either. I don't know that violence is the answer, but keeping calm and quiet doesn't seem to be helping much, either.

I look at my boys, my sweet pale-skinned blond-haired boys, and I know I need to talk to them about this. About the racism they will grow up around, the injustices happening all the time, the privilege we enjoy that isolates us from it. I look at D, not quite yet 7 years old, and he seems way too young to hear about these things. And yet I know there are black parents all around the country who have to sit down their boys (and girls) of the same age and have The Talk in hopes of protecting them.

The thing is, I believe that it may very well be the case that Darren Wilson honestly feared for his life and that Mike Brown was not actually a threat. I think Wilson is a product of our racist culture, that teaches us that black people are scary and dangerous and aggressive. The media continues to feed this stereotype by painting peaceful protests as angry riots, and the police by responding to a group of people exercising their right to protest by coming out in full riot gear and sniper rifles and tear gas. And as long as we keep believing in this magically dangerous and hyperaggressive negro, and as long as we keep taking the killer's word for things and not question these murders, we will continue to have white police officers and citizens overreact and harm innocent people.

Chart showing how rare it is for grand juries not to indict

In Defense of Black Rage: Michael Brown, police, and the American dream 
"I believe that racism exists in the inexplicable sense of fear, unsafety and gnawing anxiety that white people, be they officers with guns or just general folks moving about their lives, have when they encounter black people. I believe racism exists in that sense of mistrust, the extra precautions white people take when they encounter black people. I believe all these emotions have emerged from a lifetime of media consumption subtly communicating that black people are criminal, a lifetime of seeing most people in power look just like you, a lifetime of being the majority population. "

Self-Segregation: Why It's So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson
"But these are not stories most whites are socially positioned to hear. Widespread social separation is the root of divergent reactions along racial lines to events such as the Watts riots, the O.J. Simpson verdict, and, more recently, the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. For most white Americans, #hoodies and #handsupdontshoot and the images that have accompanied these hashtags on social media may feel alien and off-putting given their communal contexts and social networks."
A Black man is killed by the police every 28 hours in the US

21 Things You Can't Do While Black

What Black Parents Tell Their Sons About the Police
"Every black male I've ever met has had this talk, and it's likely that I'll have to give it one day too. There are so many things I need to tell my future son, already, before I've birthed him; so many innocuous, trite thoughts that may not make a single difference. Don't wear a hoodie. Don't try to break up a fight. Don't talk back to cops. Don't ask for help. But they're all variations of a single theme: Don't give them an excuse to kill you."

So, what can you do?

Color of Change's Petition for Mike Brown

12 Things White People Can Do Now for Ferguson

A list of resources, funds, petitions, etc, you can use to help Ferguson

A simple and beautiful take on how to talk to kids about their privilege

1 comment:

  1. The problems in the world never use to bother me before until I became a Mother. It's funny how we view the world differently once we have something to protect and have to raise these innocent children into (hopefully) good productive adults. Good luck with your talk. -Stevie



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