I’ve barely blogged about the Ferguson situation these last two months, simply because, well, everyone else does, and besides: I’m a white woman, what could I possibly contribute?
And then I thought about it all, again, constantly, 24/7 it seems, and so here I am.
The grand jury decision is going to be announced any day, so we hear; any moment. Perhaps even by the time you’re reading this. The worst part is that we don’t know—not when, not what that decision will be. We’ve all, all of us, heard so many things. So much information, some reliable, some not so much. Over and over again. Pretty sure I’ve heard all sides of the story, all opinions.
So now I’m giving mine, and you might be surprised:
I think there was an altercation between Michael and Officer Wilson. I know that Wilson stopped Michael and his friend—that has never been in dispute; the law can be tricky this way, as much of the case will go to intent. Did the officer INTEND to kill Michael, what was he THINKING. Not just doing, but what was the entire situation? And no one but Michael and Officer Wilson know the entire story.
Michael is gone. Wilson is not. And that could skew things, certainly.
I tend to believe in the law. I believe that most officers are doing their jobs, admirably, and that sometimes bad things happen. I don’t believe that bad things happen ALL the time, or even MOST of the time.
But that could be because I’m white.
Was Michael targeted because of his skin color, in relation to the thoughts and feelings of Officer Wilson? I don’t think so—but that’s from my perspective. I’ve heard stories about racial profiling, but in the case of Ferguson itself I think it’s a matter of the population. Most residents are black, and the vast majority of police incidents involve a black suspect. That makes sense, from a numbers perspective. One of my friends told me of her husband being pulled over because of a robbery near our home—the suspect was a black male. To me, that also makes sense.
When I was 16, I was driving my dad’s pickup home from a horseshow. I wasn’t speeding or doing anything illegal, but I was pulled over by three police cars—THREE—because the pickup I was driving matched the description of a pickup spotted earlier that was speeding and weaving through traffic. Scared the bejeezus out of me, but the police were doing their job, stopping someone who met a specific description. Didn’t change my opinion of the police.
Then again, it happened once. Not multiple times, as some of my friends have had happen.
So, is this a black/white thing? I’m still not sure. Would it even be a thing if Officer Wilson were black? I don’t know. I’ve read that many people think the black community—whatever that means—doesn’t care about so-called black-on-black crime, and I have to say that is absolutely NOT true. Of course they care, many people of all colors care, because these are senseless deaths. When there’s a major disaster, does anyone stop grieving to ask, “Wait a minute, what COLOR were the victims?” Of course not.
See, here’s the thing: regardless of color, parents try to raise their kids right. Some, all colors, are more successful than others. Sure, sometimes you can blame those parents, all colors, for doing stupid things or not caring—yes, sometimes parents DON’T care, all colors—but each kid is his own person and will ultimately do WHATEVER THE HELL HE WANTS.
By all accounts, Michael was a nice guy. That doesn’t mean that he was a nice guy all the time. Doesn’t mean he was a saint and did everything right. No one does. No, not even Officer Wilson. His supporters say he was a great guy too. But something happened that day, between two great guys. That’s the truth.
But now I’m afraid. Because I’m white. And because my son goes to school near Ferguson. And he’s white. I think I might know a little bit about what my friends mean when they say they’re targeted because they’re black. The difference here is that if I’m attacked by a civilian, as a civilian I could fight back; if I’m stopped by the police, the authorities, my ability to fight back is limited by that authority.
See, I was raised to respect authority, so if I’m stopped by police, I comply however I can, and quickly too. I assume I’ve done something wrong; sometimes, I even knew what it was (expired plates!). No one is perfect, but I do my best to follow the law. Black people aren’t alone in feeling fear when stopped—heart racing, palms sweating, mind whirling. It happens to everyone.
Someone will ask what I mean, and if I mean that blacks DON’T comply with an officer’s request or that blacks try to circumvent the law. I DO NOT MEAN THAT. Further, I don’t mean that one should feel the need to be subservient to an authority, to bow his head and take whatever comes.
I DO mean respect for the law, and before anyone can jump in and ask if I mean that Michael had no respect for the law, I DO NOT MEAN THAT.
As far as I know.
I do know and have run into plenty of “kids,” Michael’s generation, black and white, that have NO respect for authority. Could it be the parents’ fault? Maybe. More likely, it’s a generational thing. I know kids who mouth off at the police, who refuse simple requests, who are just general assholes. By all accounts, Michael was not as asshole, but he DID refuse a simple request. Should he have been shot for that, especially if that was what the entire situation was about? No.
But just think, for a brief moment, how differently things could have turned out if he’d said, “Yes, sorry, of course,” and moved to the sidewalk. Recent news media has suggested that, after his refusal to get out of the middle of the street, Officer Wilson THEN heard about the robbery, etc. But if Michael had robbed the store then he already had little respect for the law OR for authorities. I don’t know why, and neither do you.
And so I’m afraid of this entire situation. Not afraid of the protestors, but of those few assholes among their ranks. If you’re black, you’ll understand this fear—much like fearing those few assholes who are officers. I believe the vast majority of protestors ARE peaceful and DO want change. I believe changes are necessary. But there are some that just want chaos.
Read the comments on news stories. Most people who comment, I think, just want to stir the pot—anonymously, from the comfort of their homes. Many are assholes, just like those few protestors I mentioned. I really believe that most people, black and white, want a peaceful resolution, but I’m afraid of those who don’t. Black or white.
And so I prep—for this, and many other reasons. I can be safe and comfortable, armed and defended, and I can and will hope and pray that peace reigns over the entire area. I’m ten miles from Ferguson; not close at all. But then I’ll see a Tweet or read a comment, and yes, I know fear.
But when I see things online, like people who appear to be perfectly reasonable, nice human being saying things like:
“We tired of this shit!”
“Loot the white neighborhoods!”
“Tell the whitey we coming for him!”
Yes, I’m prepared. The worst is the not knowing, waiting for the announcement.
But for many, the worst may well be the announcement itself.