Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Far Have We Come?

Sometimes I feel like I don't have the right to comment on racial issues because, you know, I'm white; I might be angry and I might be heartbroken, but I will never know what it feels like to be black in America.

But not giving my horror and my sorrow a voice ensures I won't be heard more than any oppression can, and that is unacceptable no matter who I am or what I face.  The grand jury decision in Ferguson last night - and scenes of the peaceful protest outside the White House, which brought tears to my eyes because this truly is happening in every city around the country - spurred me to research ways I can get involved in my community.  No matter how you feel about the violence and looting in and around Ferguson, about the right of the police to take any action they feel necessary to protect themselves, or even about reparations or affirmative action, I think we can all agree that this country hasn't come nearly far enough in the last fifty years and the only way to change that is for us all to get involved.

I hope we will.  I hope we do.


  1. I was feeling really useless, and in an effort to do something, I donated to the Ferguson library. They're staying open and organizing events for children while schools are closed. It's a small thing, but books can save lives and what they're doing for the community is important. The link to donate is here: http://ferguson.lib.mo.us/

  2. I couldn't agree with you more and it's hard to know what to do, how to help in some of these situations. But @Shannon that's an amazing idea!

  3. Shannon that's a wonderful idea - and wonderful that the library is stepping in to help.

    Betsy, there is a lot of subtext in the phrase "Sometimes I feel like I don't have the right to comment on racial issues because, you know, I'm white." Neither of us have the right to assume we understand what it feels like to be black in America because, true, we do not see things from that perspective. But we DO understand what it means to be people living in America and knowing that this is not how we want things to be, and we SHOULD have the right to talk about that! If we don't talk about racial issues, even if it's just to reach out and say, "I hate all the hatred, I want it to stop, please help me do something," then we aren't helping.

  4. I thought about this and I have a few things to say. As a wife of a cop, it hurts to see people spew messages of hatred and violence against all LEOs, when in fact, not all of them are bad cops. I know some cops are bad but like any profession, you have a few bad apples. Let's not let those few bad apples spoil the rest. My husband loves his job and puts his life on the line everyday. Who else can say that? Another thing, we weren't on that jury. We didn't sit in for nearly 2 days listening to testimony and seeing the evidence so I can't trust everything the media has to say. We will never know the truth behind what happened that fateful night. There's no clear winners in this--a family lost their son and now a cop lost his freedom. Lastly, just can't wrap my head around what the rioters think they accomplished by
    ripping dreams and jobs from the small business owners and their
    employees. Whether the verdict was right or wrong the business owners
    and their employees had nothing to do with it and now they have no job
    to go to today. Who's going to protest for them?? Who's going to help
    them put the pieces back together or help the single mom who relied on
    her job to feed her kids? I'm sad for all of them today.

  5. Hey Theresa, I want to say thank you for commenting so thoughtfully - I know you don't comment often anyway, so this means a lot! First of all, I can't imagine how hard this must be for you, knowing in a way most of the public doesn't about how law enforcement works in practice (not just in theory) and being afraid for your husband on a daily basis. Law enforcement officers take risks when they protect their communities, and that's something none of us should take for granted. While I do think that Ta-Nehisi's tweet is valid, I don't think that "the State" is the same thing as "all cops" or "all politicians" or even "all those who have authority in one way or another."

    So I also totally agree with what you said - there are some bad cops, and they shouldn't spoil our view of the police across the board. The same goes for the protesters, though - most protesters across the country aren't looting and destroying their communities. The ones that are doing those things are the bad apples, and I don't think we can see all protesters in the same light as we do the people who are taking advantage of the situation for their own selfish and criminal gains.

    And yes, I do absolutely agree that we weren't on the grand jury, we didn't hear what they heard, and we will never know the truth of what happened when Michael Brown was killed. But I will say I disagree with the grand jury decision not to idict because their responsibility wasn't to decide whether or not Officer Wilson was guilty. It was to decide whether or not the situation deserved a trial. And I think the complexity of the situation absolutely deserved a trial. I think that's why a lot of the angry/sad people are angry/sad - not because they necessarily thought that he should be found guilty after a trial, but because they felt like due process wasn't appropriately or responsibly followed.

  6. I love love love this! Good for you :) I think Jon and I are going to get involved in the Homeless Children's Playtime Project http://www.playtimeproject.org/

  7. This is a really great idea. I think when there is such a huge media frenzy it is impossible to know what truly happened. I hope Michael's family finds peace. I hope the police officer involved has learned something from this experience. Our nation certainly has. We've discussed this in private before, Betsy, and I think you're right- the problem is not that this isolated event happened, it's that if this involved a white person, things would probably be going a little bit differently. Perhaps it wouldn't have happened.

    So as an evidence-based person, I think the next best step is to put cameras on a handful of police forces, gather some data, and see if things change, and how. Then we can make some meaningful changes to how we train our police force to handle these situations.

  8. It is so terrible. My boyfriend works in the motor industry and it is shocking how many people passing through are still so incredibly racist.


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