Dear protesters and cops. It seems this whole Ferguson conflict is about trying to trumpet the wrong issue, while concealing the right one. Each side has valid points, but you’re debating all the wrong things.
The Wrong Issue – Racial oppression. Despite growing evidence to the contrary, most of them assume Michael Brown was unarmed and shot in the back by a police officer for racial reasons. For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that’s true. Even if it is, stealing moon pies from 7-11 is not going to bring about change. If your community is consumed with rage, why destroy property where you live? If you, the looter, can’t distinguish between a tool of oppression and the guy that sells you a $1.65 slurpee, the country has no reason to put faith in your opinion that Michael Brown was a target of racial oppression. If you must riot, don’t loot. Also, pick a target closer to your oppressive source.
The Right Issue – Militarization of civilian police. The Ferguson police have gift wrapped examples of their unchecked power. They’re arresting reporters on air, gassing reporters, threatening reporters with bodily harm on air, and standing by while you loot. It proves they’re not there to restore order; they want to show you whose boss. The eyes of the nation are on their ego-inflating camouflage, itchy tear-gas fingers, and patty wagons from Baghdad. You have years of materiel here. Heck, you could even make a case for the 2nd Amendment, because Ferguson is what it looks like when only the police have guns.
The Wrong Issue – Public unrest. The Brown shooting itself is looking more and more justified. But your actions since then show you don’t care about a dead young man, whatever the reasons. At best it looks like callous disregard for human life, in which case, you are untrustworthy to protect it. At worst, it looks like you are intentionally trying to harm black people, which should land you in jail. Are you not human? Can you not mourn the tragedy of life cut short with the community? People outside Ferguson want to believe you, but right now, you’re proving the looters correct. You might say there’s no point in grieving with a rioting crowd. You couldn’t be more wrong. Be the better man, lead by example, and show your community that hate does not bring justice or healing.
The Right Issue – Cops have a hard job. You are the guys tackling that rapist to the ground, cuffing a child molester, and doing what you can to curb endless gang violence. You are the one wrapping a blanket around the hungry child found wandering a mile from his drunk parent’s home, and all too often you see evil you can do nothing about. Don’t let it steal your humanity. It appears Darren Wilson had a split second to make a threat assessment on a guy bum-rushing him. It might have been wrong, but he’s human. That’s what you need to remind people of, your humanity. People want to believe you, because the alternative is a world in which the police feel superior to the population they serve, and entitled to abuse the public how they see fit. Don’t be that guy.
Why is there such anger in Ferguson? Because it’s safer to be enraged than sad. This is a tragedy, but uncontrolled rage neither avenges the fallen, nor advances your cause. As Gandhi would say, dear protesters and cops, be the change you want to see in the world.
-Shelby Blakely, grieving American.