Please accept this post which has nothing to do with pop culture. What’s going on in Ferguson is too important to ignore. At the bottom are links to other articles on this issue. If you only read one thing out of this article, read one of those.
Let’s play “Which is More Important.” On one hand we have property damage, gunshots, and bottle-throwing perpetrated by a few members of a community suffering extreme grief and anger. On the other hand we have the widespread, nation-wide murder of young black men committed by representatives of the government who are never punished for it.
Yes, the burning buildings of option A make for a better picture and an easier headline, but the right answer is emphatically option B.
So it is incredibly depressing to see the media focusing entirely on the violence in Ferguson without discussing the reason behind it. I want to see national media coverage on why black people in Ferguson and across the country are angry rather than salivating over the broken store windows. And, while I’m wishing for unlikely things, how about having some people of color explain those reasons?
I am not black or brown person, so I feel unqualified to talk about the experience of interacting with police as a person of color. Nevertheless, I, and anyone else who cares to look, can find a wealth of evidence that black people are treated horrendously in our justice system, starting with the police and ending with the prison system.
For instance, just today we have a story of a 12-year-old black boy, Tamir Rice, shot and killed by a policeman because he was carrying a toy gun at a playground. Similarly, John Crawford, was shot by police in a Wal-Mart because he was carrying a toy gun. Both of these incidents occurred in open carry states. I’d like to emphasize that because even if those people had been carrying real guns, it still would have been legal behavior and yet, they were shot without warning or opportunity to explain. And one of them was a child.
Then we come to the case of Marissa Alexander, a black woman in Florida who, to scare off her abusive husband, shot in his direction but didn’t hit him. She spent almost three years in jail through the process, was convicted on three charges, and faced 20 years in prison for it. For not killing someone, remember. Except this is the same state that said a man who killed a black teenager wasn’t guilty because of Florida’s stand your ground laws.
I could go on, but I think you get my point.
The fact that the people of Ferguson are angry is understandable and the fact that the media is using this as an excuse to continue to ignore the larger issues is despicable.
The truth is that America has a racist justice system and it’s not going to get better until we acknowledge and examine the racism in our society. Covering the rioting without making the reasons clear only provides a mechanism to reinforce racist beliefs that black people are inherently violent and their concerns should be ignored.
Instead, we should all be appalled by the treatment black people are subjected to by our government. We should all be standing with the people of Ferguson and demanding change. That change will be difficult and it won’t happen all at once. But it will start when we can recognize, as a nation, that racism in our society is the real problem, and it’s bigger than any rioting in any city.
Here are some more commentary on this issue and Ferguson. You should read them all: