Ongoing crises in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip. Robin Williams’ suicide. The (considerably less important cosmically but nonetheless significant to me) 8-month-struggle of the Oakland Athletics.
Turning on the TV or checking Twitter was not a pleasant occurrence in the month of August.
Perhaps the most troubling story to emerge from the end of the summer was the gunning down of Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown and the ensuing unrest it unleashed nation-wide.
In the wake of the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, there was a lot of discussion as to whether America had finally turned the corner and become what some have described as a “post-racial society.”
A nation closer to the ideals of our founding; a land where all are created equal.
Well, we’re created equal all right. Then, when you get older, you realize places like Ferguson exist.
The hard truth is that America’s racial divisions still cut deep into the Earth. Scars on the landscape that never fully healed.
Ferguson brought simmering issues to the forefront of our national discourse. The militarization of police forces across America. Income inequality. Threats to First Amendment rights guaranteeing a free press.
Most troubling though is the fact that Michael Brown’s killing, much like Trayvon Martin’s in 2012, is just another example of unarmed black teenagers being gunned down in the street by white men.
Some may wonder why these young men don’t just yield and surrender when they’re being confronted by angry white police officers or overzealous, gun-toting neighborhood watch types. Much was made that George Zimmerman has sustained injuries at the hands of Martin, and in the aftermath of Brown’s killing some tried to exaggerate the nature of Officer Darren Wilson’s injuries, as if somehow that made shooting Brown in the skull OK.
I would ask those people: If you saw these stories in the news, and your specific ethnic or social group was being routinely targeted in this way — would you just give up or try to defend yourself? That is a loaded question to ponder and is a scenario many cannot conceive of themselves being in. Some would rather not even consider the possibility or place themselves in another’s shoes at all.
Right here is where we cue the right wing noise brigade.Conservatives doing what they do best — muddying the waters.
They deny even the mere possibility that America has an inherent privilege afforded whites. They blame the media for daring to present the truth to the American people.
But we can call all that out for what it is: A mental dodge. A desperate attempt to avoid the realization that “hey, maybe I’m helping to perpetuate this.”
Instead of daring to ask hard questions of themselves — questions about race, wealth inequality and the prevalence and willingness of people to use firearms — they duck and dodge with the same old tropes they’ve been trotting out since time immemorial.
Cry “reverse racism.” Defend guns and gun owners at all costs. Express unconditional support for law enforcement. I’ve even seen some try to minimize the importance of Brown’s death by pointing out a recent incident where a white teen was killed by a black police officer in Utah.
As if that isn’t anything more than a distraction meant to make people think that the media is at fault because of some purported “double standard.” It’s a distraction, at best. A monumentally cynical instance of race-baiting at worst.
Many of you saw the scenes that played out in Ferguson with your own two eyes.
Machine guns. Tear gas. Flashbangs. Big-ass urban assault vehicles. Little slices of Fallujah circa 2003, right here in the American heartland.
Whether or not people want to accept it — we haven’t come nearly as far as a people as we think we have. Many of the problems that have plagued us since our founding have more or less been swept under the rug many times over until the garbage accumulates and spills out into a bigger mess than we ever could have imagined.
I was profoundly disturbed by the events that unfolded in Ferguson. I have had to spend a lot of time processing all that I saw on TV. What I saw was a portrait of a more divided, violent America than I want to believe exists sometimes. But I won’t let myself forget it.
The issue of race is real. It’s been around for a long time. And it won’t go away if we ignore it.
Thankfully, August is winding down and so, seemingly, is the unrest in Missouri. I’d like to say I hope things get better after all this. I’d like to say that I think this is all just another step on our collective journey towards peace and universal understanding.
I’d like to say that.