My Small Corner of the Ferguson Discussion

There is so much analysis about Ferguson going on right now: it’s about white rage, it’s about how a prosecutor can manipulate the system, it’s about militarized police. And of course: it’s about racism, it’s about more than racism, it was never about racism.

As a white ally-in-training I stand in solidarity with the black community in their anger over the shooting, the crassness of leaving the body in the street, the handling of the days after by the Ferguson police, and now the grand jury process. It is the black community that is standing at the center of this issue as the injured party and I will listen when they tell me it is about race. Most importantly, I will listen when they tell me this is systemic—not a Ferguson problem, not a police problem, but an American problem.

Although I hate going to marches and protests, I will be going to the protest tonight at the 3rd Precinct Station in Minneapolis. This is the moment when people are writing about why this has happened and how it’s happening all over the US, all the time. Even more importantly, people are reading it and talking about it and if this protest keeps those conversations alive, I want to support it.

That’s probably not why most people will be there; they will be there because they are angry. I think they have a right to be angry. I think I have a right to be angry, but I don’t do angry activist well so I’ll stick to my strengths. I’ll go and listen and learn more about how to talk about what is happening. I will be another body to stand and represent because I can go, and I know that is part of the privilege I have. If I’m not using my privilege to challenge the problem, then I’m a part of the problem.

Listening to the coverage today on National Public Radio, I kept thinking about how broken our society is. If we can’t get indictment of cops that are part of the problem, I want an indictment of the society that leads militarized police departments to view the public as the problem, that shapes the thinking of a policeman to be afraid in a situation where he should be in control, that gives a young black man good reason not to trust the police, that oppresses a neighborhood until they have nothing to lose, that encourages the media to cover the neighborhood riots but not the neighborhood helping each other.

If you are white and you are not speaking about the injustices in Ferguson, you are part of the problem. Yep, you. It’s past time to begin understanding the complexity of the problem and how urgently we, white people, need to start working on it. It’s been 400 years in the making, it’s going to take a long time to change us to where we need to be.

So, tonight I’m going to a protest to stand in solidarity. I may not have many answers right now, but I can see a problem, and I will not avoid it. Only by engaging can I be a part of the solution. I will listen and learn and center the voices of the black community as they speak their truth.

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