As a black female and mother of two young black males, I can’t help but watch what’s unfolding in Ferguson since the Michael Brown shooting on Aug. 9. This shooting death went from an event that sadly, most people of color are no longer shocked by to a situation of unrest as people protest, police over-react to attempt to control crowds, journalists are arrested, citizens are tear-gassed, people (believed to be outsiders) loot and agitate, and AG Eric Holder arrives.
We’re horrified that these things keep happening and nothing ever seems to change. There are more names of black males (and females) beaten and/or killed by police in the last several years than anyone could remember or count. But their families remember.
And though we can’t remember each name, we know that they happened and again, sadly, we’re no longer surprised.
The protests, occasional looting, overly excessive response by the police, and overall unrest in Ferguson following the shooting death make me reflective of life in America as a black person, make me extremely nervous and concerned about the future and life in America for my boys as they grow into young men (who will one day be viewed with suspicious eyes by someone somewhere), and reflective yet concerned about what all of this has revealed.
So, here’s what I’ve learned…
- For most people, being white in America and being black in America mean two completely different things.
- Whites from urban areas tend to sympathize more with the situation in Ferguson than whites from rural areas (although this isn't always the case as discussed here).
- Divided economically, people at the bottom have more in common (regardless of race) than people at the top.
- Left-leaning people tend to understand the plight of the Ferguson citizens and the anger from people of color than right-leaning people, who tend to sympathize with the cops more.
- White Americans and Black Americans often have very different views of and experiences with police.
- As a minority, you can still be killed for minor offenses, such as jaywalking.
- Huge segments of society find it easier to believe that a black male was doing something wrong rather than a police officer did something wrong.
- Way too many police forces in this country have too many militarized weapons.
- Due to this militarized police forces, police officers too often see citizens as enemy combatants to be taken down (with lethal force if necessary) rather than fellow citizens to be calmed down, detained, and arrested.
- It’s still incredibly easy for blacks (esp. black males) to be viewed as the aggressor, the boogie man, to be feared.
- Local government and police forces should have similar demographics of the city they represent.
- Local government and police forces should be required to live where they represent.
- All police forces should have “get to know the community” events once a month.
- All police officers should wear A/V recorders that cannot be turned off.
- Feeling that you’ve done nothing wrong doesn’t matter if police feel that you have.
- Black males grow up with a different set of rules than white males.
- Following the rules of life (being a productive citizen, finishing h.s., going to college, getting a good job, like a federal prosecutor), doesn’t always guarantee you’ll be safe from police harassment or bullets.
- Cities will harass and try to suppress the media when it suits them.
- Media narratives can often be more powerful and more harmful than the truth, but sometimes you can take some of that power back.
- Sexual assault victims and victims of police violence have things in common: victim blaming and justification for the actions of the accused.
- Some people would prefer to see the unrest through simplified eyes--it's poverty, not race--rather than examining the whole picture: race, poverty, distrustful police, history, and a whole host of other stuff.
- American police forces REALLY need to non-lethal methods used by other countries.
- The good stories about the people of Ferguson aren't being reported by mainstream media and are being overshadowed by the negativity.
- The lack of knowledge about black culture by the masses turns into ugly untruths on the Internet.
- Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, this entire situation highlights white privilege--some people get it, but some never will.
- Victims of police violence (esp. if the victim is of color) rarely see justice.
- There's such a thing as the Bullet Bucket Challenge--started by actor Orlando Jones.
- Although gender helps black women be perceived as less of a threat than black males, our race still creates a threat to our lives.
- It's easier for many college kids to get swept up in social media activism for crimes that happen a world away than crimes that happen in our own American cities.
- Even Russia (yes, Russia) is shaking its head at the events in Ferguson.
(I wanted to number this, but I'm sure I’ll be returning to this post to update it.)