Reason in the Face of Ferguson

The thing I find most saddening about the events in the news today is the lack of willingness to understand a situation from a higher perspective. With Ferguson, all I am hearing in the media – and from friends – is side-choosing, race-baiting and talk of “rights.” This isn’t about rights. It’s about much larger issues – issues which, whenever we as a nation try to discuss them, devolve into heated arguments where both sides are not even on the same foundational framework. Blacks are talking about a culture of oppression that leads to steam-valve moments. Whites ignore that and pretend racism can never be a part of events and try to stick to talking about “rights” while ignoring privileges. The two sides are arguing different points all together. The worst part is people have no idea how to even argue their points nor will they even truly hear the other side of the argument.

The truth is racism is very much alive and well in this country and unless you are a victim of it, you have no idea how bad it is and probably downplay it so that it fits in your fragile worldview. Sometimes a cop has to shoot someone. Sometimes it’s warranted… but that has nothing to do with the broad racism visited upon many. The two events don’t even have to be related, but an act of violence, no matter how warranted, can tip the scales for those who live with racism every single day. Refusing to understand this guarantees these kinds of events will continue to occur.

Listening to the radio today, I heard minorities trying to express the culture of racism while white guests would never respond to those sentiments, but would always revert to how a police officer has a right to defend himself. While that is true, it doesn’t mean you can’t still acknowledge the broader situations that cause a community to react as it does. These are two separate things that have come to national attention by a singular incident. What I do know is that as long as whites refuse to acknowledge the situations that cause minority communities to reach boiling points and instead decide to take sides in individual incidents, things will get worse. Can we just admit that maybe the kid who attacked the cop was a criminal, maybe his shooting was warranted. But can we also admit that there is a very widespread problem with racism visited upon minorities by authorities and that these pressures build up until tipping points happen. You can’t judge whether or not a tipping point is justified or not, because that’s not how the world works. People react to pressures either for good or for ill – the important thing to learn is why things ever got to that point in the first place, not to judge the people who reacted.

Understanding is hard work and most of us would rather parrot what our favorite news outlet says, or the KKK, or the police, or the minorities or whichever side of the narrative we find most comfortable.

Author: Vin Breau

One thought on “Reason in the Face of Ferguson

  1. Very well put. I think it is very important to try and understand that this situation, as you said, can be both a justifiable homocide and a catalyst pointing to a greater societal problem. One does not negate or lessen the other.
    I think the dynamics of these kinds of situations are so complex it is easy to overlook things. In an environment where the police are not trusted it very well could have been as much a death sentence for Michael Brown to have obeyed the officer as it was to have fought him, just a different executioner. Once the patrol car was blocking traffic and attracting attention all around, there would have been a societal pressure for Brown to maintain his dignity and street credibility by playing the tough guy.
    Working in education I see it regularly. If a kid is misbehaving the response to correction is completely different if it happens in front of peers as opposed to behind closed doors. It gets them in more trouble but the trouble a school administrator can wield is often far less (both psychologically and physically) than the backlash from peers if the child is percieved as weak.
    I suspect a similar dynamic happens in places like Ferguson (more than suspect, I grew up in St Louis). There is a level of…I don’t know, street dignity and respect that must be maintained. To not do so can have very real consequenses. When a part of that is a distrust and lack of respect for law enforcement, the stage is set for these pressure valve moments, particularly because law enforcement has its own version of street cred.


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