Firefighter watches as a car is set ablaze in Ferguson. Credit: Associated Press
I remember May 1, 2011.
It was the day of what was suppossed to be the May Day protests, to raise awareness on workers rights and immigration. But what caught the attention of the national media was the self-proclaimed anarchists that went around downtown, dressed in clad black, smashing windows of prominent capitalist businesses.
This was when I was in community college still, working for school paper there. It was in Bremerton only an hour ferry ride away from the emerald city when I caught wind of the news. A photographer and I went there as soon as we could.
By the time we did got there, the action had settled and the window smashers had already been taken into custody. But there were still plenty of protesters around. What I noticed from these “anarchists”, though, was that their all black attire was speckled in the very logos and emblems of the capitalist giants they supposedly hated so much. All I could deduce was that perhaps they were complete hypoctites or that perhaps they didn’t understand what true anarchy was and only knew the sort of media take on what it is.
Although the actual protests took place, they were much overlooked by the earlier damage that was done, and many people by that point seemed to be more focused on the chaotic sort of demeanor rather than the actual focal point of workers rights; the media across the nation did the same.
What was apparent, that year and the year that followed, was that despite what the message was supposed to be, it’s so often easily lost among the masses.
Earlier tonight, a St. Louis grand jury brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson ploice officer that shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, back in August.
What started off as tense but peaceful protests, escalated into riots, with already a significant amount of damage done to the area.
There are photos coming in from Ferguson (and now even from Seattle, Oakland and other cities) as we watch it all unfold, and if one were to not pay close enough attention, it could be passed off as something from Syria or Ukraine. But it’s not, this is happening on our own soil, and its because so many Americans out there have left reason and logic back home so they can bring their anger, frustration and indifference to the streets.
Unfortunately, there was not enough evidence to really lay criminal charges on Wilson. It also did not help that the witnesses had varrying and restructured accounts of what happened the night of the shooting; it did not help that social media bottled-necked any incoming reports that could have been further investigated by law inforcement officials; and it did not help that media would take any unconfirmed report they could get to at least keeo the discussion going on their networks, and further perpetuating this incident as one based on race.
And yet people right now all across the web are saying that “the system” – the judicial system – has failed. But there was no judge behind the decision to not indict, it was a jury of peers, normal Americans randomly selected to do their civic duty. The point of a jury is to objectively look at the facts and evidence that is available from law from enforcement investigation, simply put. What a jury’s job not to do is follow the popular opinion among the people and media.
Race in America has been an issue and topic of discussion now for well over 100 years and it’s true that dispite such laws as civil rights, people of color still struggle to find equality and non-bias in several areas of this country. But this doesn’t mean that everytime a person of color, especially a very young one, is killed by a white person, that race was the motivation that led to their death.
Race in our country is something that is so easy for us to get fired up about, something that is so easy for anyone to point their finger at the police and accuse, “racial bias” “malicious intent”. Because yes, this has happened many times before.
But time and time again, so many of us rather than transcend, bury ourselves into further into ignorance. Rather than ask questions, we take to the streets pointing fingers and blaming the police or the government.
We blame the police without taking thought that someday, we may gravely need their help; we burn the American flag for the death of one without taking into consideration the millions who have died for that very flag; we set stores on fire where we used to buy groceries and have small talk with our neighbors.
The combination of ignorance with double standards is a malignant mix that will bury us as a nation.
Racism still very much exists in this nation but so does ignorance, a fog that is so deep seated among so many of us that it is dangerous to this nations well being. If we’re going to progress and succeed together and as one nation, we first need to learn to take a step back before we can take a step forward.