My Thoughts on Ferguson

This is a hard post to write. Mainly because I know lots of you will disagree with me. But, last night my Facebook feed blew up with outrage that Darren Wilson wasn’t going to be charged with murder. I get it. I do understand. There is a desire for justice, and no one feels like they got it.

But here’s the deal. I agree with the grand jury decision. Maybe I worked with law enforcement too long. Maybe it’s just my “by the book” personality. But I don’t think that a police officer should be charged for murder for events that took place while on duty and within the scope of his job.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s to blame. He killed a man who shouldn’t have been killed. But let’s face it. He had some reasons other than skin color. He did a shitty job of doing his job. He screwed up. Luckily, I work in a job where when I make a mistake, no one dies. Sadly, he made a terrible mistake and now someone’s son is dead. He sucks at his job. He didn’t control the situation. He didn’t make wise choices. He didn’t have necessary equipment (I’m assuming here that he didn’t have a taser, although I don’t know that for a fact). And, maybe, just maybe, he made assumptions based on race. Should he be fired? Absolutely. He has proven that he doesn’t have what it takes to do what is a very difficult job. But is he a criminal? I don’t think so.

I think we want very badly for him to be a criminal. Because if he was, then we could pretend that the world is fair and this was just an isolated incident. But deep down, we all know the truth. That walking down the street while being a black man can be a crime in itself. That the world we live in is still divided by haves and have nots. That the playing field is not level. And THAT is the reason that I want to protest. I want to scream out at the top of my lungs how unfair it is that my kid won’t get the same chance as my friends’ kids. Even the same chance as his white brother. And I so badly want to blame someone for that. But not Darren Wilson. He’s just a symbol of a much bigger problem. He should not be prosecuted because he has been raised in a racist society. He has been preconditioned for his entire life to think a certain way about black people. And that night, it was the failure of our society that pulled the trigger, not him alone. Racism is a systemic problem, and we are stuck with a broken system.

And to those who can’t understand the protesters, the looters, and the rioters, then you don’t understand racism. You don’t know what it’s like to not be afforded the same rights as those around you. You don’t know what it’s like to be harmed in thousands of little micro aggressions. You don’t know what it feels like to know that no matter what you do, you won’t have a fair shot. That’s why they riot. Not for what happened this week, but what has been happening for hundreds of years. I haven’t had these experiences either. I grew up slathered in white privilege. But I stand with them. If you don’t, then shut the hell up, because you just don’t get it.

I am the white mother of a black son. Some day, that son will walk down the street without me. And that scares me. I don’t know how to prepare him to face a world who sees him differently than I do, a world that see him differently than he sees himself. There is a delicate balance between the message of “don’t let anyone push you around” with the message of “do as you’re told.” How on Earth do I let him know how precious he is, but at the same time tell him to be careful because others think less of him? I’m scared. Prosecuting Darren Wilson wouldn’t change that.

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2 responses

  1. So very well said. I’m actually in St. Louis for Thanksgiving and it’s sad to see everything so crazy. I struggle to think how I can make a difference and I think the most important effort I can make (and not just on this issue but so many more) is just in my own home and how I raise my kids being honest and realistic with them. I was raised thinking race wasn’t exactly an issue anymore, so it’s been hard (after spending college and my pre-kid years working with programs to encourage women and minorities into math and science careers) to realize that these basic rights are still issues.

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