#Ferguson: Heartbreakingly Familiar

Last night I stayed up until well after midnight. My Twitter feed was full of information that wasn't appearing on any major news channel. In fact, I watched the 10 pm news to see if they would mention Ferguson. About 16 minutes into the newscast there was a 30 second spot on it. I don't even remember if they mentioned Mike Brown by name, they mostly focused on the riots and looting.

Because some people are under the delusion that the looting is the real problem. Yes, looting is a problem. But it's a problem that has been around for millennia. Literally. There has been looting going on since before Christ was born, and there will be looting going on as long as there are riots, natural disasters, and any other chaotic event. Jerks will be jerks, and I guarantee they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It is not the point of what is going on in Ferguson. Last night I saw a comment on Facebook (on one of the only posts that was on Facebook last night because it seems no one on my friends list on Facebook even knew what was going on ) declaring the looting to be heartbreaking because "they are ruining their own community". (It might also be telling to note that this same person went on to say that "the death of the young man is sad".) Looting is a problem, but isn't the heartbreaking part of this story, ok?

We could also talk about the police involvement and the restriction of free press in Ferguson right now. The police look like they are going to war. They are refusing to give their names. They are firing tear gas and rubber bullets on crowds. They are pointing guns at journalists and demanding that cameras be turned off. It looked like District 11 out there. (Shall we remember what happened in that scene?)

I know that there are some awesome police officers out there. I'm related to one. I know that we need a police force in our country, I know that sometimes they get stuck doing the shittiest jobs. But I do think there needs to be a conversation about the use of police force in this situation. I'm not going to go there today, I'll leave that to someone far more suited for the discussion. And I won't delve into freedom of the press either, though I am astonished that in this day and age journalists are being arrested for doing their job. (And by arrested, I mean hauled to the police station, put in a cell, and the released because they didn't actually break the law and couldn't be charged with a crime.) Nor will I complain about how it seems that major news outlets would rather talk about anything else than what is going on in Ferguson.

Instead, I want to talk about how the most important thing is being ignored. An unarmed black teenager was gunned down in the street. We don't know the details, It's possible we may never know the details of exactly what went down in that brief window when Mike Brown was shot. But we do know this: if that had been an unarmed white teenager gunned down by the cops, the cop responsible would be on leave and an investigation would be in process. No, if a white man had been shot, the cop responsible would not be able to hide behind his badge. White people wouldn't have to line the streets in protest demanding justice. More to the point, an unarmed white teenager wouldn't have to fear for his life around the police to begin with.

While the death of Mike Brown was the catalyst for what is going on in Ferguson, I dare say it isn't the sole reason. His death was the spark that ignited the powder keg of race relations in our country. Because his death isn't an isolated incident. In fact, he isn't the only unarmed black man killed by police this month. In fact, he is the fourth. Let that sink in. Four unarmed people have been killed by police in the first two weeks of August. How many do you think have been shot this year? This decade?

But again, I'm not here to rail against the police. (I'll leave that to someone else.) My only real goal in today's post is to tell you that THIS IS HAPPENING. You may not see much of it on your local news tonight, but I promise you, that doesn't mean it isn't going on.

We may not want to admit it (by we, I mean white people) but we are not living in a post-racial America. No, right now we seem to be living in the same world our parents and grandparents lived in. A world where black people have to demand justice by protesting while white cops armed with assault rifles and German shepherds stand ready to face off with them. Oh, and did I mention that a local KKK group came to one of the peaceful protests in a neighboring town? (That information came from a mutual friend on Facebook who lives in the Ferguson area. It has not been confirmed by any news outlets. Then again, the news outlets aren't confirming much right now.) We live in a world where when a news outlet does report on the death of unarmed minorities, it uses the picture that shows the person in the worst light. (Check out #IfTheyGunnedMeDown on Twitter or read the Buzzfeed article.)

If all this seems heartbreakingly familiar, it's because it is. Images are appearing (through Twitter, of course) that parallel the riots of the 1960's so exactly it is mind boggling.

 Top image from Ferguson, MO in 2014. Bottom from Newark, NJ in 1967.

Top image from Ferguson, MO in 2014. Bottom from Newark, NJ in 1967.

 Top image from Birmingham, AL in 1963. Bottom from Ferguson, MO in 2014.

Top image from Birmingham, AL in 1963. Bottom from Ferguson, MO in 2014.

Y'all, we need to be talking about race relations in our country. I'm ashamed to say that I really had no idea things were this bad. I grew up in a predominately white town (approx. 65%), went to college at a predominately white university (approx. 75% white when I graduated), moved to a predominately white city in Dallas (but more diverse at 50%), then after a little moving around within OKC (approx. 63%) I have ended up in a small town with a population that is nearly 90% white.

Of course race relations are bad in our country. Of course I've been oblivious to it. I've been living in my bubble, seeing what is going on in other parts of the country through my little window of Twitter. Of course Ferguson was an explosive just waiting for a spark. The town is 67% black and the police force is 94% white. 92% of all arrests made last year were of black residents. The police chief allegedly has a Confederate flag hanging in his living room. (Images found of his son online appear to show this, but it hasn't been confirmed. Also, the flag itself is enough for a whole other conversation.)

I don't have the answers. But I do know that we need to start talking about it. Now. Before there are more riots, before another unarmed person is killed. (And for the record, it isn't just black people. It is minorities in general. Just Google Luis Rodriguez Oklahoma.) We need to wake up and realize that things in this country are not ok. #Ferguson just showed us that.

*I do not own the images I used. I have tried to find the original owners of the Ferguson images and haven't been successful, so if you read this and know, please tell me so I can give them proper credit. I also could not find the names of the photographers of the historical photos. Again, if anyone knows, I'd appreciate the help!