People say that the world has always been in turmoil, but the massive access to internet makes it more obvious and in our faces. I'm not so sure that I see things that way.
Tonight, a few hours drive from me, riots and police are running the streets in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. This is the second night in a row. Why is this happening?
It's happening because another young man lost his life at the hands of the police. An unarmed man. An unarmed Black man. Michael Brown was supposed to start college today. That fact alone tears at my heart, knowing that I will be starting school next week.
The story is a mish-mash of confusion. The story starts with the police officer apparently telling Mr. Brown and his friend to stop walking in the middle of the road. The police say that the young man became angry and tried to take the officer's weapon, resulting in the shots. The witnesses say that the young man had his hands up and was moving away from the officer when he was shot multiple times. Forensics provided by several news sources provide a shooting distance of roughly 35 feet.
Who do you believe?
I moved to Columbia, MO at the end of May from Carbondale, IL. Carbondale is NO stranger to police controversy. If you haven't heard of it, look up Molly Young's death, and the more recent death of Pravin Varughese. While I didn't know Molly, I was familiar with Pravin, and several of my students were his family friends. They are both extremely disturbing tales, and are not the only cases of possible police misconduct. The chief of police once forgot his gun in his car, which was then stolen, only to be used later in a crime. There are also several unsolved cold case murders.
What I am saying here is that I am familiar with police actions that result in extremely negative consequences. I am NOT saying that all officers are bad people. I know that I rely on officers when I am in danger, and will call for their help without worry.
What bothers me is simple and complicated all at once.
When will it be enough? When will governments realize that there is an obvious bias in their police forces and do something about it? When will young black people stop being killed by police for some imagined infraction? In this specific case, why didn't the officer use less than lethal weaponry if he felt that he was in danger from an unarmed man?
What is it going to take?
What is it going to take for the good cops on the force to stop protecting the corrupt? Why don't they stand up? Why do we fear those who are supposed to be our greatest protectors?
I am not condoning, in any way, shape, or form what the rioters in Ferguson are doing. I feel that it is drastically unfair to local business owners, as they are facing looting and loss of their livelihood due to these protests.
What I am saying is that I empathize with their situation. I can't say that I wouldn't be just as angry. I don't know, since I have never personally faced such a situation. I feel like the people of Ferguson have had enough, and are lashing out in a way that is definitely getting attention.
I wish that there was some way that I could ease their sorrow and take away their anger. I wish that I could take the actions of that police officer back, and let Michael Brown go to school.
I know that doesn't help. I know that for a long time, nothing will.