Ferguson and Race in America

I was all set to do a post last night about a bad day I had last week, describing the snowball effect negative energy can have and how I was able to creatively problem-solve certain issues. Then the news came in from Ferguson and I couldn’t in good conscience write a post about personal growth or fighting inner demons.

Regardless of whether the Grand Jury in Ferguson fulfilled their civic duty the best they could with the evidence they were presented (entirely possible), regardless of whether the prosecutor or even Darren Wilson were doing their jobs to the best of their abilities (debatable and less likely), the whole tragedy surrounding the death of Mike Brown and the ensuing mess at every stage and level of the aftermath proves that something has to give. Action must be made to stop the unraveling of our society, but what action? To decide that, we have to come to some consensus as a nation on what we want the end result to be, but that would involve actually talking and listening to one another. Opening up and feeling other’s pain instead of shutting down anyone’s ideas that differs and getting defensive at the merest hint of criticism. Being willing to shake the status quo, externally and internally (and there’s that tension of opposites that I’ve been working on figuring out).

I have heard it argued that racism is only one of many issues we face in our present day lives (the same has been said about feminist issues), and I agree to a certain extent. But race is a really big issue as we are talking about a large percentage of the population having to deal with it. So let’s at least talk about it. Let’s pick one major issue and discuss it thoroughly, and see how it is woven with other major issues, and look at the big ugly tapestry of all that is wrong in society and try to come up with viable, working solutions. Let’s come up with an actionable list and actually follow through on the list, sidestepping the idiots of both political sides currently in political office if it becomes necessary.

The inner work we do on ourselves is important, but so is the work we can do as a functioning member of society. The two have to balance. Micro and macro. You can be as peaceful and transcended into your own mind as you like, but that isn’t going to matter if society crumbles around you. So listen to other people. Hear not only what they say but the undercurrent beneath the words. Listen to yourself, and root out what is really beneath your deepest fears and preconceived notions, and work to get rid of them. Listen, and then speak up when you have something of worth to say. Decide for yourself the kind of society you want (inner) and then work with others in your community to make that a reality (outer), compromising on details but staying true to the major elements. It’s possible. The alternative, doing nothing, means we just keep straight on the path we’re currently on, heading for disaster.

A Practical List of Options in Response to Ferguson

With the near media blackout, increased use of force by the police, and the simmering unrest in Ferguson, MO in response to the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown last Saturday, it occurs to me that many Americans who care about these things are probably feeling a sense of futility, a what-can-I-possibly-do attitude. So I’ve come up with a list. Feel free to suggest more in the comments, and I will add to it.

  1. If you live in Missouri, take 10 or so minutes to craft an email and send it to your governor and to your local and state politicians today. For the rest of the country, wait until about noon tomorrow (giving the community almost a week to deal with this but not allowing another weekend to go by without making your opinions known), and do the same at the federal level – send an email to the offices of your state representatives in D.C. as well as any office of the federal government that you think flooding their inbox may cause someone to speak out publicly. Keep your language formal, polite, but firm. Specifically call out the abuses of power and the race issues that you find most abhorrent. Submit a copy of your email to your local press and maybe it will be included in their op ed section.
  2. If you are planning a local protest, research the laws in your town before beginning. Comply with all of the rules, if possible. Create a press release, again using formal language, and inform the local press. Use the media and the Internet as much as possible. Document everything. If the police engage you while protesting, do not respond to the taunts. Taking the high road makes your argument much stronger.
  3. Talk with others about the issues surrounding.Ferguson. The race and class inequities that exist in our country are real. When engaging others, either in person or online, avoid name calling, party rhetoric, or harsh language. Don’t feed the online trolls. Keep your arguments concise and well-written. Proofread before you post anywhere.
  4. If you are uninformed about race issues in this country or think people are blowing the issues out of proportion, do some historical research. If you can’t stand to actually read boring facts, then at least watch Blazing Saddles and a few episodes of The Boondocks animated series. Then at least you can laugh while you learn something.
  5. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the media spin. Read enough to keep yourself informed, be active any way you can, but it won’t do anyone any good if you are constantly glued to your supposed “news” sources, merely consuming the bits of information and misinformation being fed into your brain.
  6. If you are a nonwhite American, know that the police will be watching you more closely, no matter where you live. Tensions are probably high in the departments right now, and all it will take is an eyebrow twitch to set some of the officers over the edge. Be careful. It is grossly unfair that you have to, but your safety is important.
  7. Edited to add: here is a link to a Bail and Legal fund set up to help those arrested: http://antistatestl.noblogs.org/post/2014/08/11/bail-and-legal-fund-for-those-arrested-during-ferguson-anti-police-demonstrations/ I have not yet researched the legitimacy of this, so do your homework before giving funds, but if you have the funds, please consider donating.

Bottom line, stay smart. Don’t allow yourself to be numb or wash your hands of America yet, but keep your anger and frustration focused and constructive rather than destructive.