Monday, August 18, 2014

Funeral Blues for Ferguson, Missouri

"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos ..."
                                                        W.H. Auden

These words keep running through my head as news rolls in about Ferguson, MO. It feels like everything should just STOP and pay attention to what's happening. I read the news, Twitter, so choked up that I can hardly breathe.

But the world just keeps going.  At least, it does for White America. I see a sharp division between my White and Black friends in how much headspace this story is getting. I'm not talking about everyone, but let's be really real for a second: I've seen more Facebook coverage of the ice-bucket challenge than the fact that real tyranny is happening not just in Ferguson, but throughout the U.S. 

And I've been thinking a lot about two little guys I know, just on the cusp of teenagerhood. They are best friends. They love Minecraft, rap music, and have secret crushes on girls. I'll call them H and J. H is White. J is Black.

They are going to do a lot of dumb stuff over the next few years. That's what you do when you're a teenaged boy. It's the result of a partly-developed frontal lobe, a growing body, and more freedom.

But the results of those dumb teenaged choices could be harrowingly different. 

J is more likely to be stopped for things like walking and driving than his friend H.
When he is, he is more likely to be subjected to unconstitutional searches.
If, during these searches, he resists, he is more likely to have force used against him.
J is more likely to be arrested, and if he is, to be convicted, and sentenced more harshly.
The list goes on.

And it can all start with just ... walking down the street.
Memphis, 1968

I've seen a lot of articles like "10 (or 12 or 8) things White people can do about Ferguson." I don't have any good advice. But what I know we have to stop doing? We have to stop acting as if there is ANY justification for killing a young unarmed Black or Brown boy in the street. 

Not his clothes.
Not his past crimes.
Not Facebook photos of that boy doing dumb, teenaged stuff.
Not holding something in his hand, be it a cell phone or Skittles.
Not talking back to authority figures.

When we try to argue about whether that boy was a good boy, or a troublemaker, or a scholar, or a criminal, what we are really saying is this: Black lives only matter to us if they conform to some standard that we White folks have set up.

A boy is dead. Not just one boy... but many.Many more are in prison.

Let's mourn that, and that turn our eyes to the justice that is the only thing that will bring peace.

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