On Ferguson

Regular readers know that I typically don’t do current events posts.  My main purpose in running this blog is a combination of narrative analysis (I really like stories, and I think it’s fun to pull them apart) and theological pondering (yeah, the theology’s been a little light the past few months, but I am still thinking about it, even if I don’t write as much on the topic).

So just accept that this is a break from the usual routine, and if you come here to read about my obscure thoughts on the last movie I watched or comic I read, then please forgive this brief interlude.

In my regular news reading, I’ve seen a lot of stuff written about Ferguson, Missouri.  Just about every Christian blogger that I follow has had something to say about what’s going on there; Morgan Guyton wrote a good post on the whole phenomenon in the white Christian blogosphere where lots of people have been weighing in on events because they feel they need to (and why he’s not judging people who choose not to comment).  It feels like something a person looking to be an ally to people of color and other marginalized groups should do.  At the same time, there’s a very real reluctance to say anything because part of being sensitive to those same groups is knowing when to keep our privileged mouths shut (this is where I’ve generally fallen on Ferguson up until now; for anyone wondering, I very much doubt I have anything new to say).

While I still feel reluctant to comment, Samantha Field brought up a very good point that I hadn’t considered.  While I’ve been hearing a good bit about Ferguson through my regular news sources, there is a possibility that people I know haven’t.  It often feels that way to me, because Mike Brown’s death was ten days ago, and I’ve not heard a single mention of Ferguson anywhere except by way of the internet.  My students, while definitely not the most news savvy bunch, have said nothing about it (this is surprising to me, if only because racial tensions do regularly flair up among our students, who are primarily a mixture of black and rural white children); more surprisingly, my coworkers have had no commentary.  The nature of my workplace lends itself to overshadowing issues that happen outside school walls during the workday, but this story is just so massive that the fact it hasn’t appeared at work at all befuddles me.  I can’t help at least thinking about it in my off time, but not once yet has Ferguson crossed my mind while I’ve been on the job.  So maybe there are people I know who haven’t heard about it.

Here’s what I understand of events.

On August 9, Mike Brown was shot multiple times and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  Brown was black, and the officer is white.  Brown was unarmed.  Following the shooting, members of the Ferguson community, which is over 60% black, congregated for peaceful protests, to which the (almost entirely white) police force responded with full SWAT gear, using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to deter protesters.  There have been reports of looting by some people, but it is a small minority.  The large majority of protesters remain peaceful.  In addition to using tactics intended for controlling riots instead of peaceful crowds, police have also been trying to intimidate reporters into not covering the protests.  Every night, new protests happen, and still the police throw tear gas and shoot at the people gathering.

It should go without saying, but apparently “should” and “do” are two different words, but the police’s actions in these events are appalling.  Everything from the inciting incident, in which an officer shot an unarmed black man, to the methods the police have been using to try to control both the protests and the media coverage, is horrendous.  All evidence points to these crackdowns (which is probably too mild a word for what the police are doing) being racially motivated.

Words fail me at this point, simply because I have nothing else I can offer.  People are angry, and they are trying to express their anger while being treated as subhuman.  The rest of us sitting on the sidelines either follow with rapt attention because this is something that matters, or we ignore it because we can’t be bothered to get angry about these things.

For people who fall into the latter category, it has to be said: this is something that is worth being angry over.

__________

If you’ve not been following the Ferguson story, then your first stop should be the articles linked in Samantha Field’s post, linked above.  This is about a systemic problem with how black people are treated in America, and the most important voices to listen to are black.  Beyond that, check out the #Ferguson hashtag on Twitter (I’m a Twitter noob, and I managed to figure it out).

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