The Good, the Bad, the Ferguson

America’s pretty messed up right now.

We’ve got vitriolic divisions on racial lines, political lines, ideological lines, religious/non-religious lines… We’re divided on so many fronts, I still find myself unable to pledge allegiance to the flag. Why should I? It’s not true. One nation? Sure, even if a lot of people want to secede. Under God? Well, that’s definitely questionable. Indivisible? The only way we as a country could be indivisible right now is if we’ve already divided ourselves so much that we can no longer be divided. And we seem to be nearly there. With liberty and justice for all? That statement seems almost as laughable as “indivisible,” especially in the light of the events of Ferguson, Mo.

If you have no idea what events I’m talking about, go ye forth and seek ye a friggin’ newspaper and a house that isn’t under 6 miles of rock. The problems in Ferguson are so layered and numerous and ridiculous that one would THINK, as a nation, we could finally see eye-to-eye on something with only a few freak outliers in the data. I mean, we’ve got excessive, militarized police blowing responses out of proportion. We’ve got an unarmed, non-violent (at LEAST in that moment) person WHOSE SKIN COLOR OR CRIMINAL RECORD SHOULDN’T MATTER dead without a good explanation. If he was a criminal, he was executed without due process, a Constitutional right. We’ve got the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the press getting hampered by cops, not to mention the violations of the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments. And you’d better believe that 2nd amendment wouldn’t get upheld if a Ferguson protestor legally had a gun. We’ve got proof of this sort of activity happening all over the country for YEARS without appropriate punishments. We’ve got scientific data showing a decrease in police brutality and harassment claims anywhere cameras are required to be in cop cars or on their person. We KNOW, without a doubt, that there needs to be change. Race shouldn’t even be an issue.

But, no. Nothing’s ever that simple. See, too much has happened. There have been riots and looting. Those are bad, so Michael Brown deserved it. He may or may not have stolen cigars. Therefore, he deserved it. Oh, and he’s black. Which makes a difference. Because when you’re black, if you’re not an honors student planning to attend Harvard with a spotless record, a 4.0+ GPA and have never smoked, drank, had sex, owned a gun or hung out with another person of color who is less “perfect” than you, then you’re going to be demonized. This guy says all of this much more poignantly than I can, so I suggest you read it.

I was born extremely lucky. I reached into the lotto bowls of race and gender and got white male. As a man, I will tend to get preferential treatment over women when it comes to being hired and paid. I have a far lesser fear of sexual assault and rape. As a white person, I don’t have to worry about being treated as a stereotype. I don’t worry about being frisked. If I were to commit a crime, I’m likely to spend far less time in jail than a non-white person. And if I get randomly killed by police, at least I won’t get my name dragged through the dirt postmortem.

But do you know what the worst part of this all is? Nothing will really change. People will pretend it’s an isolated incident, like Eric Garner choked to death in New York, like Rodney King in California, like Trayvon Martin in Florida, like Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, like Michael Bell in Wisconsin. It was a fluke. It wasn’t a symbol of larger problems. They weren’t perfect people, so they deserved it. They goaded the cops. For goodness sake, we’ve got a crowdfunding campaign in support of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Brown, and you can see how many people are apparently GLAD the boy got shot. Because blacks kill blacks and no one complains? Because he was a thug anyway? Excuse after excuse after excuse.

Nothing will change because we allow it to stay the same. Because we choose to see people as different and lesser than the rest of us.

America is going to be one of the most disastrously failed experiments if we let this keep happening, but there’s too much pride, ego and ignorance blinding people to that fact. Hopefully, I’m wrong. Hopefully, Brown’s death will ignite a spark of change for the better. Because we desperately need it before we burn.

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4 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, the Ferguson

  1. eyeontheuniverse says:

    It’s not likely to get any less messed up – there’s no utopia on the horizon, and it is very unlikely that we can predict where this country will be in 20 years. I say this not to deter you from trying to help, but because if you walk around with this idea that humans are better than we are, and more perfectible, you are in for a disappointment that is likely to throw your best intentions off track. We’re animals, and we travel in packs and have very base drives that we don’t understand. Most humans, (yes, even those millions who are in or qualified to be in MENSA), don’t have the slightest inkling of how humans function…and the remainder have just that, an inkling.

    We can make things a bit better, but when you look at measurements of happiness over the last century, the numbers just shift, but the averages don’t change significantly. Unless you come to love the species for what it is, as you would a special on lions or gorillas or ants, you won’t every be happy, because humans will never be what you want us to be.

    • Chaeotica says:

      I don’t think anyone is looking for a utopia. What we’re looking for is a society where all humans are treated like humans instead of one group being treated like humans and the rest like objects, animals, and worse.

      • eyeontheuniverse says:

        Your choice to read every element of what occurred in the worst possible light regarding the police and sentiment against the teenager is every bit as biased as the folks with the opposite approach who you are criticizing. The answers are much more complicated than you think. This cop “executed” Brown is as big and simplistic an assumption as any out there regarding this case. That you think people who want to help with this cops defense are glad Brown was shot or even assume Wilson is innocent is equally ignorant. I, for one, support the innocence project even though I believe most in jail for these crimes are guilty. It is important to give the accused, black or white, the benefit the chance to defend themselves. That is what you are forgetting. You don’t see your own bias, and even after reading this, odds are you still won’t allow yourself to accept the harsh truth. Reality is much more complex than you think, and people’s reactions are much more diverse.

        I don’t know exactly what bits of the puzzle you’re missing, but believe me, it’s a lot. Most importantly I think you fall under the common misunderstanding that having a relatively high IQ is enough to have insight. Do you really understand the math? Last I checked, 1 in 50 people qualify for MENSA (more, really, since to broaden the scope they allowed alternate admission methods). That was true even back when the majority of the population was illiterate (yes, theoretically, since MENSA didn’t exist). I point this out because you don’t understand so much, and you flaunt your MENSA status like it says something important and valuable about you. You want to know my own experience? Only a tiny minority of people who qualify for MENSA have anything to do with the organization, and those who do and publicize it often have some real issues. If you really have knowledge, experience, and friends the details of whether someone’s IQ is at the 90th or 99th percentile are quite clearly largely irrelevant (yes, the difference between 99th and 60th is more relevant…but do you join a club over it which draws some arbitrary line?). I would be embarrassed ever to have applied to MENSA and sure as heck wouldn’t admit membership (though like almost everyone I know I easily qualify). That you aren’t embarrassed in itself indicates a lack of awareness of what the generally educated populace knows about education and intelligence.

        Trust me (or don’t), you don’t get how complicated the world is and it is hurting you as much as it is hurting others. You are following the all too normal human path of oversimplifying the world so you can feel you have a grip and feel superior (despite your protestations to the contrary). Let it go. You have no idea what happened and don’t understand the reactions of the people involved. I don’t know what your education level is, but I have seen this type of unhappiness before and it is almost always related to underlying ignorance of the complexity of social systems. More importantly it is related to a deep ignorance of your own ignorance.

    • linaloki says:

      I’m wondering if that last comment was meant to be targeted at me… either way, a really odd comment. Especially with the condemnation of arrogance and superiority complexes that were given kinda arrogantly and with airs of superiority… but whatever, (And, seriously, this Mensa fixation you’ve got is really weird.)

      Of course there’s no utopia. Human beings are inherently flawed creatures. Utopias can’t exist. I’ve never expected that. That would be an idiotic expectation.

      What I do expect is progress and a drive among humans to be better. We can be better. We have proven that we can get better. Most societies, for example, reject slavery. Not all of them, but we can improve. Many societies have recognized the horrors of genocide and have made efforts to prevent it. Not all of them, but we can improve. Humans can constantly set a goal and strive toward that goal. In America in particular, where we tout equality and liberty, we should be able to try to put our money where our mouths are. I don’t expect an uptick of happiness. But I’m not going to say apathy is the answer because nothing’s gonna change, either. I demand more from us, because I know we can do more. I don’t think we should accept human suffering and just say, “That’s how things go!” I think we should fight against it. Is it an ultimately losing battle? Perhaps. But it’s a worthy fight, not unlike your mention of The Innocence Project. Your support of such a project should help you at least recognize that we get things wrong and we should fix that. So what’s different in this case? Whatever the facts end up being, it is immensely unlikely that any one person involved is 100% free of blame. And the aftermath of the initial event also showed some ugly stuff. And we should point at those bad things and say “No more. How can we fix this?”

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