My Thoughts On Ferguson
There is no question in my mind that Michael Brown’s tragic murder highlights a legitimate fear felt by many in the African American community that in too many cases, because of fear and stereotyping, Police are too quick to use lethal force against African Americans in general and against African American men in particular. This relates not just to the death of Michael Brown, but to the death of too many young African American men across this great nation. The question becomes how do we respond and at what point do we hold our own folks liable for behaviors that do not contribute to the community.
To be true the problems in Ferguson started long before the tragic night when Michael Brown lost his life under questionable circumstances. Why is a city that is now over 80 percent African American still ruled by a white minority? How does a city with over 80 percent of its residents African American have a Police Department where 52 out of 55 members are white, and have a documented history of antagonizing African American residents? How does the fire department reflect the same demographics?
One obvious answer would be that somebody is not voting. The next question becomes are they choosing not to vote, or is the KKK or some other lethal entity standing in their way. Because to my mind the first solution is to use the power of the vote to change who is in power and making decisions.
There was a mini debate between Jessie Jackson and Don Lemon on whether or not those people who are rioting and looting should be held accountable. Jackson said something to the effect of they are just expressing their frustration, and he could understand. Don Lemon’s response was one of the only things he has said that I agree with, when he noted that violence is wrong, that looting is wrong, that burning down businesses where people work to make a living and a profit is wrong, and that he felt the job of people like Jackson was to help re-direct people’s rage into productive outlets, like perhaps voter registration.
The police and city attitudes are definitely wrong, but so is the attitude that I can loot and burn and steal, to express my frustration. Anyone looting, burning or stealing needs to be arrested, and the greater community needs to express its displeasure at the behavior.
What is needed in Ferguson, as around the country, is real leadership. What is needed is someone to ask what are the short term, intermediate term and long term steps that need to be taken to as Dr. King once said, “Get the people to pour the gas out of the bottles and come to the table looking for meaningful change.”
It does not help any cause to have those who claim to represent it act in ways that are reprehensible to those who might be sympathetic to their cause. I know the rioters and looters represent only a small portion of the protestors, but the failure to call them out, to denounce their behavior and to let the world know that what they are doing is not representative of you or your community in my mind weakens the ethos of your cause.
The way to make lasting change in Ferguson is simpler than in most communities. Sometime in the next four years there will be citywide elections. Let the 80 percent of the city that has had no voice turn out in force and elect office holders who will hear their needs and represent their community. These elected leaders can then appoint police and fire chiefs who will serve the entire community and hold those trusted with a badge to a standard that is acceptable to the community. This would be a much more effective strategy than burning down businesses that provide crucial services and goods in the very community you are trying to make better.
Or at least that is the way I see it.
(Do you have a question or comment on this column? Look me up on Facebook/HollisWormsby or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)