The Ferguson Dilemma

So, Officer Darren Wilson was not convicted for the murder of Michael Brown. And my Facebook page is exploding with outrage and “To Kill a Mockingbird” quotes. Those quotes were some of the more subtle instances of anger somehow, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” is not a subtle book for all two people who don’t know. Because, of course, race relations are just as bad now as they were in 1936 Southern, bumfuck nowhere America, probably worse.

I guess the only question that’s relevant to this blog in particular is what I think about it.

And the answer is . . . I don’t. I just don’t. And I don’t think anyone else really thinks anything about this tragedy either. I know that sounds odd. I suppose the more accurate thing to say would be that I don’t feel anything about it whereas lots of other people are feeling everything all at once. I’m not surprised that a cop got away with shooting a teenager like so many people rather inexplicably seem to be, I’m not outraged, and I’m not sad. It’s sad that I’m not surprised, but it’s the nature of humanity that we do fucked up things lots of the time, so I’m not surprised by most unfortunate things that happen. I acknowledge that this doesn’t seem at all like the right decision (a murder is a murder, and even a justified one needs to be punished somehow, which this one wasn’t). If it were up to me, Darren Wilson would be punished, no question about it. Maybe it’s just my aversion to popular things, but I cannot bring myself to be fervently angry about it. It just seems like everyone else is angry enough to make up for it. Right before this news was released, one of my friends approached me and, as casual as anything, asked, “So are you ready for the riots?” He was pretty accurate, huh?

That’s all this seems to be. People are angry. It’s not like I don’t get that. Nah duh people are going to be pissed off about it. I understand that entirely. But that’s all it seems to be. No one is analyzing why the decision was made the way it was. No one is doing anything all that productive about it. They’re just getting together to be collectively pissed off, which is fine in of itself; but if they’re expecting to get anything done that way, they’re sorely mistaken. Being angry doesn’t lead to reform. It leads to revolution. And revolution, for all of it’s positive connotations as a word, does not work. Revolution ends with things being worse than they were when they started. As it turns out, mutual anger isn’t all it takes to make a cohesive movement.

I’ll just go over a few choice quotes from my Facebook feed to actually show you guys what I’m talking about (I’m of course leaving these anonymous–I still like most of these people and am in no way looking down on them. I’m just pointing out that they’re counter-productively pissed off, and that emotion is governing everything they’re saying, for better or worse.):

I really have no patience for the deluded. If you’re not angry about Ferguson, unfriend me. If you think this “wasn’t about race”, unfriend me. If you support Darren Wilson, unfriend me. If you’re not staying informed, unfriend me. If you think because you’re not black, because you don’t live in Ferguson, because “this has nothing to do with you”, you don’t have the responsibility to involve yourself in the injustice of Michael Brown’s murder and Darren Wilson’s freedom, unfriend me. This is not a discussion. I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to explain why it’s not okay that a white man can kill a black child and walk free. If you’re at best ignorant, and at worst deluded, I want you to either inform yourself or press the unfriend button.

First: It’s not okay because a man killed a child. What, if the big bad white man killed a white child, would it be okay? This is essentially equating all people who disagree with you as either evil/racist or an idiot. I’m sure both of them make up a large portion of the people who aren’t mad about this case, but to assume that that is all it’s made up of is extremely un-nuanced. I’ve gone through the measures to “inform myself.” You want to know what my conclusion is? I don’t know what happened. I don’t know. And I’m not going to pretend to know. I’m not going to pretend to know that the cop was just some racist asshole who shot someone for no reason, because there isn’t enough evidence to support that assumption. It seems like Michael Brown attacked the cop just from autopsy reports. Does that warrant shooting someone to death? No. That’s why I think he still should have gotten in some kind of trouble. But I just can’t know. And for that reason, I cannot in good conscious paint Darren Wilson as a monster and a boogeyman who will go on hiding in little kids’ closets because we didn’t slay him when we got the chance. He’s just the next in a long line of people (most of them being douchebags, I’ll grant you that) who America has painted as nothing but a caricature of an actual person–a racist boogeyman that personifies everything there is to hate in this world. I don’t think he’s a monster. And to act as though he is one is not helping. If you go out into the world expecting monsters, you’ll be very ill-prepared when you find out that human beings are hardly as cut-and-dry as that.

I can’t even begin to describe the disappointment that I have right now about the Ferguson decision. And if you’re angry because rioters were burning the American flag and not over the lost life of Michael Brown, wow… ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬

This is actually one of the better ones. I’m including it to show that nuance is a thing that people are engaging in. I would agree that anyone who had this particular reaction could only be described by saying “wow . . .” As I’ve already stated, it’s not like I’m against people being angry about this. Be as angry and disappoined as you want. I’m also not against people doing whatever they damn well please with the American flag because it’s a piece of fabric. I am against there being rioters in a much more general sense, though. Name one time when rioting accomplished anything other than short-term gratification and property damage.

I haven’t felt so sick to my stomach since this summer when someone posted an article about Palestinians “asking to die” on my wall. How many un-convicted executions does it take to show America just how disposable black lives are? I cannot contain this any longer: if I see anyone post any sort of pro-sympathetic post about Darren Wilson, you will get de-friended. AND GOD FORBID if I see another “this isn’t a race issue” post… Sympathizers for systematic racism cannot be tolerated, and those who are silent in this issue are just part of the problem. ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬

As you know, if you are not with me, you are against me. If you don’t support me, you are my enemy. It’s that kind of pathos driven, us vs. them rhetoric that leads to more separatism, not less. You know what lives are also disposable? The lives of Mexicans being shot down at the border, which still happens. The lives of poor whites who, when they’re not getting shot by the cops, they’re getting hung out to dry on medical bills they can’t pay along with all the poor black people. The lives of women in places like Arkansas or Northern Ireland, when they have a medical emergency and need an abortion or risk death but can’t get one, because even that would be illegal. How about the lives of all the 18 year olds who join up with our troops to be thrown at a war that should be over by now where we’re killing other wholly disposable people, because they were promised a better life and money and an education, but who ultimately end up coming back four years later with PTSD and not enough money or social support to actually treat it? What about the lives of all the cops who have died in this pointless, ill advised drug war that’s actively making the drug problem worse, not better? What about the lives of all the black people killed by other black people–which outweighs the amount of white-on-black murder?

But no, the expendability of black lives in the eyes of white people is the main problem here. It’s not like you find that kind of callousness anywhere else. It’s totally because people are racist toward the blacks, and that’s all you need to know.

This was never about Michael Brown. It was never about him, and it didn’t matter what way this conviction went. Because that’s how this kind of thing works: Either Darren Wilson gets in trouble and the people on “our side” will make him an example of how terrible things are, or he doesn’t get in trouble and the people on “our side” will make him an example of how terrible things are. It works in our favor no matter what. This case is the excuse. It’s the hand that turned on the faucet for all of our grievances to come pouring out. And that is fine. It’s fine for one event to be the catalyst for action on a larger issue.

But don’t act like it’s something different. Don’t act like you care about Michael Brown as someone other than a name and a face to put on a movement that makes it more palatable, more real. Don’t act like all the outrage, all the talk about how this “Was the last straw!” isn’t going to go away as soon as the Michael Brown case becomes old news. There have been plenty of “last straws.” There have been plenty of riots that accomplished nothing. And if you want to respect Michael Brown by doing something “in his name,” actually respect him as a person and not just a martyr that was the example of just how bad the world still is, maybe rioting is not the best thing to do. Just maybe.



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