I haven’t had the time to post much these past weeks, and so I haven’t said much in the wake of events in Ferguson–instead I’ve been listening, thinking, listening some more.
But here’s one thought I had: Donors Choose, a site for funding classroom projects at schools around the country, allows one to sort projects by city/town. Wouldn’t it be awesome of we could get all the Ferguson school projects funded? I think it would be. Amazing numbers of people have turned out to support Ferguson’s library and buy books for its shelves this past week. Helping support the community’s schools seems the next logical step, to me. Especially since public school funding has always been more about economic privilege than we like to admit.
And here’s another, less comfortable thought: I’m grateful that I haven’t been seeing the same degree of outright racism on my social media feeds that some of my friends have seen on theirs in the wake of the Ferguson decision. But I have seen something else, and so I feel this has to be said: Saying or implying that because you see some degree of (very different, non-equivalent) bad behavior on all sides this means that either 1) no one is right or wrong or has any moral high ground, or 2) that we all need to just stop all this uncomfortable disagreeing and just behave / get along — are ways of, intentionally or not, to shutting down debate and discouraging the speaking and hearing of uncomfortable truths about racial inequalities that still very much exist in American society, at a very high cost.
If you find yourself instinctively doing this — wanting to say either “let’s not argue” or “everyone’s acting badly” I recommend stepping back and working to listen for a while instead.
If you’re white that means (if hearing race mentioned at all makes you instinctively uncomfortable that means) especially listening to voices from the black community and other communities of color.
There’s more than one reason I’m trying to listen more than speak right now.
And finally what seems to me a very relevant quote:
“Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results.
“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
–Martin Luther King Jr.
And now, back to listening.