Outstretched Hands for Ferguson

protests

The Ferguson protests are not about one person.

Michael Brown was a young man with a lot of promise. His death is tragic and my heart goes out to his affected family and friends. Michael was gone far too early.

But now with news flooding in every day about protests, arrests and even the arrival of national guard, is clear that the shooting on August 9th has transcended one person. Everything that you’ll see happening in Ferguson is not about Brown-

It’s about the next young black person.

This is far from an irrational worry. You don’t need to look far to see past evidence of incidents just like what happened in Ferguson. Trayvon Martin was two years ago, and the confusion and tragedy still ring fresh in our minds. And this is not to mention years and years of injustice suffered during and before last century’s civil rights movement. If you believe the adage that “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”, than America is doomed into a cycle where a large number of its citizens fear that they will not get the same justice as everyone else.

Let’s put this another way:

Imagine there was only one car dealership in America. Let’s call this dealership “USAOA”. You go to this dealership when you are young. The salesman promises you a great car. You will always be safe in this car. It will go just as far up the highway as anyone else’s. And most importantly, this car will be seen just as important and valued as anyone else’s. You buy the car.

As you grow up, you see incidents. They may happen right in front of you or to others you know. Other people’s cars are going faster. They are traveling further than yours is able to. And they seem to have special pathways open to them. You would complain, but there is a no return policy. The car you have is the one you keep for life.

Then one day, it is time to get a car for your own child. You go there knowing that you may not get a fair deal, but at least they’ll be safe. Then you hear that Sybrina’s Fulton’s child passed away in a car accident. The accident wasn’t caused by a faulty car part or a drunk driver. It just happened. At the end of the day, some justice was served-but not nearly enough to replace what was lost. You stand at the dealership, your child’s hand in yours. Sybrina’s case is not unique. In fact there are hundreds, thousands of examples of this same thing happening. If you buy that car, will your child be safe?

This is the question that many African-American men and women are forced to think about every time a news report like Ferguson gets out. And yes, anger is a part of it. It’s not hard to imagine why. But again, the bigger emotion here is fear. Fear that their child will be the next face plastered on boards as a reminder that sometimes in America, your life may depend on the color of your skin.

Of course, most people understand all of the above. And hell, anyone may have experienced this even if they aren’t black because of their sexual orientation, gender, weight, ethnicity, religion and many, many, many more invisible lines drawn in America’s sands. What some people don’t understand is why Ferguson is full of protesters, ready to fight if necessary to be heard. And that’s quite simple too.

The media won’t speak for them.

Oh yes, the media does often highlight African-Americans in a positive light. Seriously! We hear every development about Beyonce and Jay-Z’s relationship. We know right away what Will Smith’s next movie will be like. And even if you didn’t know anything about Lebron James, his move from one state to another dominated sports coverage for at least a week. These men and women have done great things that inspire and encourage us their community to shoot for their own dreams. But at the same time, these are rare cases, statistically at least. The media needs to highlight these people so that the 99 percent who never get that far in a system stacked against them think, “Maybe I can get there too.”

The above is by no means unique to the African-American community. Turn on the E channel for a minute. There’s now even a luxury channel devoted to rich people showing off their rich things. It’s insane! (Unless one of them has a batmobile. Then I’ll tune in). The media is fantastic at balancing tragedy with distraction. And sure, they’ll cover stories of social injustice like Occupy Wall Street or Casey Anthony or Ferguson…until the rage dies down. Until the outrage becomes another moment of quiet acceptance. A cautionary tale, but never a constant reality.

This is why the people in Ferguson are hefting up their arms in protest. They know they take the action to put their arms down, it may be mistaken as acceptance. An acceptance that this is the way that this country will operate, that this can happen again with the same result. This is something that the protestors will not accept.

No matter what race, religion, gender and many other types of identity that you have chosen to be, there is one universal truth here: You do not have to agree with the “raised arm protests” or the exact words that the protestors in Ferguson use. But please understand why this is so important. Why this story can’t be simply cycled out of public consciousness after the sentencing. Why this story is about race.

The Ferguson protests are not about one person.

The raised arms you see are people trying to shield their children from the next bullet.

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