It feels wrong to write today without addressing Ferguson.
It also feels wrong to put forward more words unless they are truly contributing to the conversation, and not just additional noise.
But what can possibly be said? There aren’t words enough in the English language to comfort the family, and friends, of Michael Brown. No matter what lens through which individuals choose to view the events of August 9th, it is impossible for any one of us, that was not on the street that day, to know with complete certainty what exactly occurred. That being said, no matter what degree we each believe that race played in Brown’s death, it is impossible to say that race wasn’t a factor. With the possible exception of extremely young children (and I’ll leave that to behavioral experts and doctors to debate), race is always a factor. Just like sex is a factor. Every factor in a situation does not determine the situation’s outcome, but to deny that it CAN be detrimental to an outcome is irresponsible.
The color of one’s skin is a visible difference between people. Does the color of one’s skin define their character? No. But it is undeniably a visual cue to the human brain. What the cue triggers in an individual’s brain is a reflection, and a reaction, to that individual’s upbringing. Whether at home, at school, or in peer groups, each person’s mindset is a collaboration of what they have heard, considered, experienced and eventually internalized as their own set of truths.
The idea of telling someone to just stop being racist, and it actually working, is a lovely dream, but without rewriting the subject’s entire history, it is unlikely (at best) to expect their brain to be able to make that switch. The new idea of human equality, without taking race or color into account, may be entirely conflicting with the “truths” that individual has been living with.
I don’t have a solution. There isn’t a single, or simple, solution to racism.
That doesn’t mean that we should ignore it, or pretend that racism doesn’t still exist. Should you have been lucky enough to never have witnessed racism, please understand that you are, indeed, lucky. That is not what the average person experiences, whether perpetuating the hate, being on the receiving end, or simply observing its ugly existence. Racism still exists, and it exists in an individual’s belief systems. From where I sit, which is a position of privilege, I wonder what I can do to encourage change, to work towards a better world. And wonder if, because of that privilege, whether any action I take CAN have a positive effect.
While I don’t have answers, I do have hope. Call it foolish if you will, but I have hope. I have hope that things CAN improve. That things WILL improve. I also have hope that somehow, however small, I can make a difference. That every single person, regardless of their own background and skin, can make some sort of difference. And my hope is that these butterfly wing movements, on individual levels, will somehow create a climate change.
I vow to keep my eyes open.
I will consider, and try to understand, other perspectives.
I will speak when I witness injustice.
I will push the people in my life to do the same.
No matter how you have chosen to view the events of August 9th, there is also no doubt that the city of Ferguson is suffering. Should you wish to contribute to the city of Ferguson, please consider one of the following:
Ferguson Public Library
While schools have been closed, the library remains open and is considered to be a safe space in the community.
I Love Ferguson
A group committed to supporting and rebuilding local businesses that have suffered in the wake of the Ferguson tragedy.
Photo Credit: Joseph Crachiola, 1973
** Post updated 11/26/14 to reflect photo credit only ** Post updated 12/14/15 to correct typographical error only