Touchstones of truth on Ferguson.

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November 27, 2014 by Julia

I keep reading about Ferguson. I don’t have anything new to add to the national conversation, but I do feel that writing a normal blog post about everyday stuff, as though none of these other things are happening in our country, would be wrong for me.

There are a few things I’ve realized, as I’ve read. To me, these realizations are like touchstones, keeping the truth in hand as the media and comments sections of articles and the transcript from the trial swirl madly around, distracting and defending.

1. Michael Brown did not deserve to die for his behavior. It is easy in our racist culture to demonize a young black man for being disruptive, or for wearing socks with marijuana leaves on them, or for past criminal offenses. But nothing he did warranted death.

2. Ask yourself – if Michael Brown were a white man, would he still be alive today? I believe he would be. Now, if you are white, let that sink in. If you are not white, it probably sunk in a long time ago.

3. Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed him, would have gone to trial if justice had been carried out. He was not indicted because the St. Louis justice system is corrupted by racism as well as a defensive, fearful loyalty to its police force. No doubt this is true of many cities across America.

4. If we focus solely on condemning the riots and looting, we are failing to look at the entire picture. Anger and violence are a human response to a loss of faith in one’s government. Are looters behaving badly? Well, others behaved badly before them, and it resulted in loss of life, and lack of justice. None of it is right, and if you are thinking that black people should always remain calm, maintain the peace, rise above the fray, then that is part of the problem. We are here in the first place because of the racist double standard inherent in almost every aspect of American culture. Whites can misbehave and they will be defended; black people misbehave and that quickly becomes the new narrative. The riots and looting are not the point.

5. Police officers are crucial to our safety, and I have the utmost respect for their bravery and sacrifice. But our country requires the slow, difficult work of eradicating racism from our deepest crevasses, and that is more important than ever within the police force. Darren Wilson is not likely an evil sociopath, but his actions were the result of a racist, fearful culture. I do not know what that kind of fear must be like for police officers, when they’re in the line of duty – I do not claim that I could do better, if I were facing possible death or injury. But we have to do better. Stop wasting everyone’s time making excuses, and figure out a way to stop killing men and women who don’t need to die.

6. If Darren Wilson hadn’t been carrying a gun, Michael Brown would still be alive. It’s hard to be a good guy with a gun. There are other, non-fatal ways that police officers can defend themselves and apprehend criminals. Try observing how it’s done in less violent countries.

I offer these thoughts with humility, because although I don’t feel qualified to enter the public debate, to remain silent is not an option for me, either. I stand in protest. I protest a culture and justice system that is steeped in unfairness, fear, and disrespect.

Please stand with me, first by searching your own heart, and then carefully venturing out to the hearts of others. If, like me, you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, just read and listen for a while. Your inner voice will strengthen and eventually you may trust yourself to speak.

The black youth activism since that August day has been nothing short of remarkable. Since October, organizers have staged protests and creative acts of civil disobedience to compel the communities of St Louis County to confront the future of police-community relationships. It has been enough to remind anybody who is even slightly aware of their surroundings – of the pattern of police abuses, excessive force and systemic racism – that there is not a single community in America where people of color are not at a powerful, pernicious tension with their police department. That we have let another white cop who shot a black kid get off the hook.

And so we protest. Because it is our only recourse. We do not explode in violence, but we do not accept these terms that anticipate and perpetuate failure. We channel a sustained, clear-eyed rage, and we insist that our policies and our enactment of those policies ensure equal protection for the most vulnerable among us and accountability for officers in uniform when they kill unarmed youth with impunity.

We protest so that some day, some years from now, justice is not a surprise, nor a dream, nor deferred. So that justice just is. – from “Ferguson, goddamn: No indictment for Darren Wilson is no surprise. This is why we protest” by Syreeta McFaddin at The Guardian

In Ferguson, There’s No “Typical” Protester at Buzzfeed

The #Ferguson grand jury documents are hundreds of pages long. Here are 6 key excerpts. at Mother Jones

Ferguson Documents: What Michael Brown’s Friend Saw at NPR

The Day After the Verdict: Is This a Joke? by mynameiselizabeth.com

Michael Brown’s mother

Michael Brown’s father

Ferguson reacts to shooting of Michael Brown

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