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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Some thoughts about the events in Ferguson

Up until now, I have resisted the urge to write about the events in Ferguson because I have not really had anything to add to the conversation.  Depressingly, this story has become far too common to add much too.  Sadly, the reaction from people is also entirely predictable, which is another reason that I have stayed out of this.

That being said, I did see a couple of things that I wanted to comment on.

First, I *AM NOT* going to comment on the case itself.  I do not know all of the facts and am not in any position to judge what happened, which frankly is also true for most people out there.  Unless you saw what happened or heard the evidence, you only have a partial story (at best) to go on, which makes for bad decision making.  Sorry, but it's true.

Second, this case (like the Trayvon Martin case) has become about so much more that just Michael Brown.  To people who seem to be thinking that this is all about Michael Brown, you need to pull your heads out of whatever areas they are stuck in and realize that this is so much bigger than that.  Sadly, our country has a long and inglorious history of discrimination against non-WASPs in general, and non-whites in particular.  All of the frustration from that keeps boiling over.  Then there is also the way that Republicans have unleashed what can only be described as racism on President Obama.  They can talk about being opposed to what he does on principle, but it happens so frequently and with such vehemence that there must be other factors involved.  When a barrier is finally breached and the person who breaches it is relentlessly savaged for actions that have been fairly typical in the past, principle is rather obviously not the driving force behind it.  'Nuff said.

The first thing I wanted to comment on is an opinion piece I saw on CNN.com.  In this piece, the author rips into the prosecutor.  While I agree that as a matter of appearance (if nothing else), the prosecutor should have recused himself, I think that the rest of the piece is a series of attacks that would have been launched no matter what happened.  Basically the author says that the grand jury should not have heard all of the evidence and that the prosecutor should have recommended charges.  Had the prosecutor gone through the process as normal in a few days, I would guarantee you that people would have yelled that the process was not given enough weight.  Very similar issue with the recommending charges.  In either case, the prosecutor was stuck in the middle of a situation where there was no good answer, so he made the decision to let the grand jury decide.  And yes, I know there are people who are going to assume that he exercised some sort of nefarious influence on the grand jury, but without proof, that is merely huffing and puffing.

The second thing is the reaction to the announcement.  While I get why it happened, it was horribly bad.  First off, rioting and looting merely plays into a racist narrative that African-Americans are animalistic and not capable of controlling themselves.  After all, why can't they just protest peacefully the way whites do?  Sadly, that is the way a lot of people look at incidents like this.  While most people will not come out and say it, you can hear it right beneath whatever else it is they are saying.  In any time of social upheaval (which we are in now), people who are comfortable with the norm will do whatever they can to maintain the status quo against those who are trying to change it.  After all, people are more comfortable with what is familiar than what is new or different.  Since President Obama has been elected, racism which had been pretty well pushed out to the fringes has come to occupy center stage in the Republican party in general and the Tea Party in particular.

What can we do about all this?  First off, people need to learn another way to channel their anger.  Rather than playing into the racist stereotype of the angry black, people need to figure out a peaceful way to make change.  I know it is not going to be easy but that is the only way to solve this short of a revolution or massive display of violence.  Vote at the ballot box every election, hold *PEACEFUL* protests and demonstrations, or something else like that.  Maybe I have too much faith in the ability of the system to change, but I don't really see another option that will resolve things without any more bloodshed.