Prep Tuesday—Ferguson

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.






Special—Michael Brown Justice

What is justice? Webster defines it as “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.”

In the Michael Brown case, I’m afraid many, many people don’t understand the word.

We’ve all seen the signs being help up during the Ferguson protests—people want justice. That’s natural, that’s normal. Any thinking, law-abiding citizen wants justice.

How do you get justice? You look at the evidence, indict or not; if an indictment is handed down, the accused goes on trial. If he’s found guilty, he goes to prison. If there is no indictment, the accused is exonerated—he gets to go home.

Most people want to see justice for Michael Brown, but you can’t have justice without all the facts, all the evidence. It’s not simple.

What do we know? Michael was shot by Darren Wilson. At this point, that’s ALL we know.

In some circumstances, that would be enough. In this instance, it’s not. Officer Wilson was on duty as a police officer.

My fear is that those who do not understand the term “justice” are merely looking for a guilty verdict—and that’s something that won’t come for a long time, if ever. We’re told that the grand jury deliberations could take weeks, even after all the evidence is presented, and that itself supposed to take up to two months or longer.

It takes time.

For those who knew Michael, they’re in disbelief that this happened—surely many have known him for years, personally, and are stunned. Maybe they can’t imagine him attacking a cop, or stealing, or threatening; all these things have been reported, which doesn’t make them true.

On the other hand, maybe they can imagine it. I don’t know. I didn’t know Michael. I think it’s a shame that this happened at all, but I can see where it could have gone down like this. I can see the other side too.

I’ve heard of “bad” cops, but mostly from those who were doing something wrong or those who mouthed off at the officer. I know quite a few officers, and can’t imagine them doing something like this for no reason whatsoever. Every single officer I have ever encountered has been polite and respectful.

Every one of them.

Then again, I didn’t argue with them or call them names or threaten them in any way at all.

Oh, and I’m not black. Yes, I know it happens. I’ve heard stories.

I’m not saying that Michael did any of that, not at all, but please try to see my side—everyone has a side, whether it’s wrong or right, black or white, or for any other reason.

Here’s what I know:

Michael was shot by Officer Darren Wilson.

You can’t get and won’t have justice any time soon.

There are a lot of stories circulating, some true, some false.

People are riled up, perhaps with good cause.

Most police officers are decent and professional.

But here’s what I’d like to know:

What does the protesting accomplish?

Are you going to keep protesting until the grand jury is finished with the case?

What happens if Darren Wilson is indicted? What happens if he’s not?

Since this, after all, my blog, I can comment on these things:

Why the protesting? I know you’re protesting because Michael was shot by a police officer, but what does it accomplish? Kids are missing school. People are scared. People have limited access to their homes. I’m not going to cover the looting, because we can all agree that that’s being done by a small element, using the protesting as a cover.

Two months, the estimated time to present all the evidence to the grand jury, is a long time to continue disrupting people’s lives. If the objective is to bring awareness to the situation, to the issue, I’d say you’ve accomplished your goals.

If Officer Wilson is indicted, then what? Keep protesting until he’s convicted? It could be months, or a year or more, before the trial is heard. A long, long time to continue marching.

And if he’s not? If it’s over then, legally speaking? Then what?

Let’s try something, for both sides of this issue:

First, if you believe that the officer just whipped out his sidearm and shot Michael for no reason, take just one moment and ask yourself, “What if Michael had an altercation with Darren Wilson and punched him and/or tried to grab his gun and then charged him?” Take a deep breath, and ask again, “What if?”

Would the officer’s reaction not be justified? Don’t add all the qualifying issues, all the extraneous matters, just stop and think about it.

For those of you who believe that Michael was a bad guy and deserved everything he got, maybe more, what if Michael was indeed simply jaywalking? Forget the rest, forget what you’ve heard, just think. Did he really deserve to be killed for that?

Now, I think most people believe that no, Michael should not have been killed for jaywalking; a lot of us might be in real trouble, if that’s the case. Those who respect the police, and authority, might believe that Michael shouldn’t have tried to grab the officer’s gun, if that’s what happened; or maybe he shouldn’t have said anything but “Yes, okay,” when told to walk on the sidewalk instead of what his friend said: “We’re almost where we’re going.” Of course, thinking people realize that’s not a reason to pull out a gun, either.

Three people know the whole story: Michael, Darren Wilson, and Michael’s friend Dorian Johnson who was present. That’s it. You can be angry, you can speculate and guess, but you do NOT know what happened.

So again, what are you protesting? Something to which you do not have all the facts. Facts are what make a legal case. You can be angry that a young man was shot—you can even qualify it with the word “black” if that makes you feel better. It shouldn’t make a difference, though; white or black, if the shooting was wrong, it was wrong.

What are you teaching your children when you bring them along? Besides potentially putting them in danger, what are you telling them? That it’s okay to demonstrate against authority without knowing all the facts? Is your reasoning that the police have a history of profiling? Or something else?

I’d really like to know. So far, no one has come forward to sit down and talk, as I asked last week. I guess no one has answers, or are too busy being angry and marching in front of the TV cameras, because honestly—you aren’t accomplishing anything this way.

All the marching, the signs, the chants, are only telling the world that you’ve assigned blame and want retribution, right this minute.

Do you want true justice by the law, or only a vigilante type?