Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another Black Man Killed

It was two weeks ago that a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri handed down their decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.  The prosecutor involved with the case made the announcement during prime time hours.  Michael Brown's mother was devastated by the news.  She, and the community, felt an injustice had been done.  The response thereafter to all the events relating to Michael Brown was mixed.  I took exception to comments that took on an insensitive and superficial tone.

Twitter comments about Ferguson were plenty the night of the non-judgement.  I was getting a sense of the mood mostly from celebrities I follow.  (There were a handful of people I follow that were voicing their concerns.)  On Facebook I can only remember one friend mentioning the Michael Brown decision.

A number of people on social media were characterizing Brown as a thug.  Others were astonished that Ferguson residents were destroying property, and looting.  This weekend I overheard a young man saying that the destructive aftermath was 'ironic' because the protesters were tearing down their own community.  As extreme and nonsensical as it seemed, I didn't think they had any other option.  People were angry at the system and they wanted to make it clear to the nation.  A candlelight vigil, or die-in was not going to be sufficient to convey the helplessness and frustration they felt.

Surely there were some individuals in Ferguson who took advantage of the situation simply for their own enjoyment.  And that muddled things more.  But when I saw buildings engulfed in flames, I wondered why fire units weren't there trying to put out the blazes.  There were plenty of cops in riot gear on standby, but where were the fire engines?  Where was the National Guard?

Critics were hasty in putting the onus on the black community.  Michael Brown would be alive if he hadn't challenged a police officer, they chimed.  Or the protesters were insane for acting in such a barbaric way.  And local leaders were not there to quell the tension.  If people are going to be quick to portray blacks as savages, as thoughtless, they should expect to see some anger directed their way.

It's interesting to hear Laredoans comment on issues of race when we live in a city that is made up almost entirely of Hispanics.  We practically live in a bubble, and life for us is pretty easy going.  The natives must think things are the same for people outside our area code.  As such, a lack of empathy will continue to thrive.  We will have no sympathy for those we cannot identify with.

I actually heard two people agree, in a podcast, that racism was non-existent because we now had a black president.  I don't know how to reach people with those sensibilities.  Forty years ago Richard Pryor was expounding on the things blacks had to contend with: the same things they're railing against now.  The Clinton administration tried to right the wrongs perpetrated upon African Americans.  But here we are in 2014 and blacks are being disproportionately killed by cops more than any other group.  How can we say that progress had been made when nothing has changed?

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