The suggestion that the election of President Obama, the first black (and half white) president, would be the inception of a post-racial America, is nothing short of absurd. That hope, while it briefly existed, went out with any promised change. America is still deeply divided among race, class, and gender lines, and a sitting president cannot assuage these deep-seeded prejudices.
Perhaps the country believed things had progressed to an almost post-racial environment, but then the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman incident happened in February of 2012. Instantly, the tenuously closed scars of generational race conflict opened again. But “make no mistake”; the raging current had not been dammed up. We just hoped it so.
Now we come upon a new conflict in Ferguson, Missouri involving 18 year old black man, Michael Brown, and a cop. What happened, you ask?
“…a male subject was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer.”
The male subject? A young black man. The officer? White.
Since Saturday, August 9, 2014, Ferguson has erupted. Lootings, protesting, chantings, marches, meetings, and arrests are making the news. Does this look like a post-racial America?! We’ve come oh so far. The stagnant waters are immovable, and we keep ourselves from overcoming our stereotypes and assumptions of them…over there.
We should not fool ourselves as we watch the chaos from a distance. Ferguson is about the ugliest parts of each one of us. It is a fleshing out of mob mentality which drives people who would not singularly take it upon themselves to destroy and terrorize others, but who now do so as they are washed along with the tide of like-minds. It is the visceral reaction which takes a stance on a situation that none of us were present at. It is the idea that “whites want to kill our black kids” or “blacks want to do nothing but destroy white neighborhoods.”
Like many things, the truth is much more complex than that.The truth? Protestors angry at the events in Ferguson are not just protesting the events of August 9, but the apathy the supposed leaders in the black community have. The Obamas and Sharptons quickly close up shop after the marches and photo ops are done, and continue on to the next turmoil. The reality of being made continuously dependent by their own “leaders” may just now be coming to light for some in Ferguson, and once that kind of enslavement to one’s own is realized, it is a new kind of suffocation.
The truth? Those seeing Ferguson from the outside are mistaken if they don’t question the entire scenario and focus on finding the facts of the situation, holding accountable those who have done wrong, demand prosecution of police officers whose actions may be immoral, and calling out those who seek to destroy in lieu of a peaceful protest.
But we aren’t standing with the truth. We take sides, deferring to the level of comfort we’re accustomed to, and march on as before. There is no post-racial America. There never was. We desire that, yes, but it does not – and will not – exist. The best we can do is realize those differences exist, place a spotlight on being honest with ourselves and our actions, and further proceed. We are naturally different, but make a conscious choice to be divided. If only we would begin to push aside the propensities which propel us, we might see real change. If only we would evaluate the “righteous” fights we find ourselves in the midst of, and prize intellectual honesty over emotion.
This reality is unpleasant, and we may war against it, but this is what Ferguson says about us.