Ferguson’s story a tale of two colors

Ferguson was never just about Ferguson.

If it were, black Americans wouldn’t have said, “Here we go again.” And white Americans wouldn’t have done the same.

If it were, Michael Brown’s memory would not be placed alongside dead black men he never knew. And Darren Wilson’s testimony would not be lumped in with white officers long before him.

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, angry white people might not scream they are “sick and tired” of black people blaming the system, and would see a law officer who shot an unarmed suspect and be concerned.

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, angry black people screaming “our innocent children are being gunned down” might acknowledge that when you rob a convenience store, allegedly assault a clerk, have a high amount of THC in your system and scuffle with a police officer, the term “innocent” may not apply.

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, MSNBC wouldn’t have led its Monday night broadcasts with burning buildings and an empathetic tone that justice was denied, and this is the reaction.

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, Fox News wouldn’t have led its Monday night broadcasts with burning buildings and a cynical tone that justice was served, and this is the reaction.

Questioning the legal system

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, black Americans wouldn’t wave statistics showing a disproportionate amount of our police shootings involve young black men, then holler, “You can’t ignore this!”

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, white Americans wouldn’t wave a Bureau of Justice Statistics report that shows our murder rate by black offenders is nearly eight times that of white offenders, then holler, “You can’t ignore this!”

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, black TV viewers who have never spent a minute analyzing the grand jury system wouldn’t be screaming with authority, “That prosecutor didn’t do his job!”

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, white viewers who have never experienced a biased legal process wouldn’t be screaming with authority, “The justice system works!”

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, the Rev. Al Sharpton wouldn’t be edging his way into the TV frame, and delivering familiar criticism that he never says when the subject doesn’t serve his purpose.

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, Rudy Giuliani wouldn’t be on his high horse, suggesting black people should be more worried about each other than about white police officers.

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, white people wouldn’t be seeing shadows of the O.J. trial or Reginald Denny as they watch images of protest in Missouri.

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, black people wouldn’t feel the heavy spirits from Emmett Till to Rodney King as they watch another black community lash out in frustration.

Seeing the other’s side

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, white Americans wouldn’t see Michael Brown, 6-feet-5, nearly 290 pounds, and conclude that he’s a menace.

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, black Americans wouldn’t listen to Darren Wilson, a young white officer with no record of racism or bad police work, andimmediately assume he was lying.

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, white people wouldn’t need to understand America’s ugly history of heavy-handed white police in black neighborhoods.

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, black people wouldn’t be asked to understand that a crime and murder rate way out of proportion to the rest of America is not solely explained away by prejudice.

If Ferguson were just about Ferguson, white people might, like black people, be crying for a mother who lost her son.

And if Ferguson were just about Ferguson, black people might, like white people, empathize with an officer who felt his life was in danger.

In fact, when you observe the conflict over Ferguson, each side claiming the other is ignoring facts, each side claiming we need a color-blind society, each side claiming that we need to stop, stop — stop! — making everything about race in America, you realize the arguments sound remarkably similar.

The difference is the magnifying glass through which we are looking — which takes our own histories, our own upbringings, and enlarges what we see into something it may not be.

Those magnifying glasses are in our own hands. And until we put them down — and until we are willing to look through the other side’s — Ferguson will never just be about Ferguson.

And neither will the next place.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This