Underneath a "Season's Greetings" sign, fire and chaos were rampant. Oh, the irony. But local shops in Ferguson are not the only things that were set fire to Monday night. Hopes, visions of change, and a homegrown community were also set ablaze.
A grand jury’s verdict released Monday revealed that there would be no indictment for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown to death.
It isn’t the first case like this we’ve seen. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last. With the American justice system providing visible favoritism for white, male police officers, this is just the middle of a long, tragic phenomenon.
Watching the announcement last night, so many things came to mind.
Today on CBC’s Metro Morning, a freelance journalist named Desmond Cole was spoken to. He was on his way to Ferguson, Missouri.
When asked what he was going there for, he said it was to “bring the story home.” He had been covering it from a far and wanted to go to the direct site of where this was all unfolding. He said he wanted to speak to the people who had been there for months, affected by this endless cycle of disposability in young, black men’s lives. He wanted to see what the police officers looked like, how they were conducting themselves. He just wanted to be there.
But he said something that a lot of people need to be aware of:
“Young, black male lives are in danger,” he said, “if a police officer sees you and perceives you as a threat.”
The media has constantly portrayed young black males as the suspects, the suspects and the victims of shootings of “black on black” crime. But as Cole highlighted, instead of focusing on what needs to be done at this point, people are focusing on the very well justified, but in my eyes, seemingly misplaced, anger of black people.
They condemn the rioting, they condemn the looting, they condemn the fires, but Cole posed a question to these people:
“What other choice do these people feel they have?”
Still, I find myself in a blend of emotions.
I feel disappointed in the handling of the verdict. The riots, the fires, the looting, it’s all just a big spectacle that removes the spotlight from where it desperately needs to be right now, and that is change.
I feel sorry for the Brown family who has continuously asked on behalf of themselves and on behalf of their late son for peace, but still for protest.
And I feel angry.
As a protestor, if I fought for months and months to bring attention to something and not one thing was done, I’d be heartbroken. If, just years after watching the death of Trayvon Martin go unpunished, only to see another young black man die at the hands of an officer, white or black, I’d be crushed.
I look around and do not see leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. that can provide a single, solidary voice of the people. I do not see the same love he had in his fight against hatred. I just see the disappointment, the sorrow, and the anger. I see this sad spectacle that lay at the end of decades and decades of racially-charged inequalities and disregard for justice.
The protestors have to do better because it is clear that we have no one else to depend on. The government has failed us. The justice system has failed us. Barack Obama denied that there is any racial favouritism in the policing of the world's most powerful nation. We are all we have.
Ultimately, there needs to be more organization in these protests. You can wreak havoc for days but yesterday it was revealed to the world that all the efforts from August until then had not changed much, if anything at all.
There is such passion right now, and if that could just be redirected to create the change we need right now, Michael Brown’s death would not have been in vain.
One protestor told Fox news last night:
“This is exactly what they want.”
It reminded me of the schoolyard bully who got enjoyment from seeing their victim get flustered and overcome with emotion. Sometimes, the best way to fight a bully is to refuse to surrender to their expectations. It is to redirect your anger to your work. Remember your goal, and get past them, someway, somehow.
As much as I may think I understand the anger, the truth is, no one except the civilians, the victims, the Trayvon Martins, the Tracy Martins and the Sabrina Fultons, the Michael Browns, the Michael Brown Seniors and the Lesley McSpaddens, and the many before, and the many to come of the world truly understand.
But the one thing I do understand about anger is the potential for change it can create.
I urge you to fight this fight the right way. I urge you to demand and pursue the necessary changes. But most of all I urge you not to give up. Because without the people fighting this fight, there will be more injustices ahead.
If you want to light fire to something, let it be your cause.