Let’s be honest. Most of us who are white don’t want to face what’s happening in Ferguson.
We don’t want to be confronted by anything that might disrupt our carefully constructed narrative which says we already took care of racism in this country. I mean, hey, we have a black president, right?
Yet here we are in a country where blacks and whites use marijuana at about the same rate. Guess which group is 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for it? Blacks are significantly more likely to be pulled over, and they are sentenced to more time in jail for the same crimes.
And of course, black young men are more likely to be killed by police (or vigilantes), then tried in the court of public opinion. Kendrec McDade. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. John Crawford. And of course Michael Brown.
We’ve heard all these facts before. They’ve been on a recurring loop since the media began reporting the terrible events in Ferguson. Yet according to a study from the Pew Research Center, only 37 of whites say Michael Brown’s shooting raises racial issues, compared to 80 percent of blacks.
When you see a police force that is 94% white fire tear gas and rubber bullets at a population that is 67% black, it raises racial issues. When the images out of Ferguson look like something out of the Deep South fifty years ago, it raises racial issues. To say otherwise is to live in a particularly toxic form of denial.
The Pew Research Center also asked about the police response to the protests. Only a third of whites think the police went too far in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting.
Only a third think armored vehicles rolling down the streets of Ferguson is going too far.
Only a third think police dressed in camouflage (for some inexplicable reason) waving military-grade assault weapons at unarmed civilians is going too far.
Only a third think lobbing tear gas and stun grenades at civilians—the very citizens they’re supposed to protect—is going too far.
Only a third think threatening reporters and calling protestors “f*****g animals” is going too far.
Only a third think treating black civilians like enemy combatants is going too far.
We have a problem. And the problem is that we won’t even accept that there’s a problem.
There can be no justice, no resolution, no reconciliation until those of us who’ve been blinded by our privilege come out from our gated communities and our artificially constructed realities and listen—really listen—to the experience of being black in America.
We don’t want to talk about Ferguson. Which is precisely why we have to.
Image via Medium.com.