Thinking together about Ferguson
Dear Africana Community:
This past week we have learned, again, about police brutality against a Black man by a white police officer, and more broadly, about an American community too long used to unfair, biased, and mean treatment by the local, largely white police force. The New York Times provided this useful overview of the racial history here.
As their editorial board wrote:
". . . it doesn’t take a federal investigation to understand the history of racial segregation, economic inequality and overbearing law enforcement that produced so much of the tension now evident on the streets. St. Louis has long been one of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas, and there remains a high wall between black residents — who overwhelmingly have lower incomes — and the white power structure that dominates City Councils and police departments like the ones in Ferguson."
The persistence of inequality of income, access, and power here and in so many other parts of our country and this world is terrible. We are seeing its consequences everywhere, including with the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which is the consequence of poverty and inadequate health care structures, which in turn are the direct result of white, Western domination.
This is everyone's problem. It is just as much a problem for people not directly in harm's way as those who are. Because we are all in harm's way here. And part of the harm is that these stories persist in painting Black communities as deficient -- violent, sick, poor -- and covering over their beauties, powers, and histories. Then, the range of histories, powers, and beauties is obscured and possibities for co-existence and dialogue among them suppressed.
On Facebook recently, two Africana students from Bryn Mawr posted powerful notes, which I quote below. As a way to start a dialogue, I invite you to respond. Please use conscientious language and engage differences honestly, openly, and honorably. The purpose of this forum is to bear witness and open space for dialogue, thinking, and learning. I will moderate it to try to maintain it as a safe-enough space.
If you've ever felt surprised by learning about riots or genocide in a class you've taken and found yourself saying, "How come I never heard about this?", examine your relationship to what's currently happening in Ferguson. You might be willfully contributing to the ignorance of others and the erasure of history. #Ferguson #JusticeforMikeBrown #blacklivesmatter